It's about execution for the defense

The Steelers defense is a proud unit. They don't settle for second-best, always wanting to be at the top of the NFL rankings.

So being ranked seventh overall in the NFL, 15th against the run and fifth against the pass, following the 34-31 loss to the Oakland Raiders doesn't sit well with them. 

"It always hurts when you aren't winning," said linebacker LaMarr Woodley. "Even if we would have won the game on Sunday, we played bad defense. Win or lose we still played bad as a defense and that is going to bug you regardless."

Normally when a Steelers offense puts up 31 points they can count on the defense to hold their opponent in check and walk away with a win. But against Oakland that wasn't the case.

"It's not the way we play defense," said safety Ryan Clark. "It's not why we train and work all week to come out and play. Coach (Dick) LeBeau says sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. They scored a lot of points. We didn't stop them…period."

The immediate outcry is to start blaming everyone, from the coaches, to the scheme, to the game plan, to just about everything.

"People always are going to criticize when you are losing," said Woodley. "People are always trying to find different people and things to blame. When you are winning everything is all great, the coaches are great; the players are great. When you are losing, everyone is blamed. You always have to find something when you lose."

But the players know exactly where the blame needs to be placed.

"We can't point fingers at anybody," said Clark. "We have to use our thumb and point them at ourselves and be better. That is what we want to do. There is talk about us being old. It's not the old guys. We have to infuse the young talent and work well together. You lose chemistry sometimes when guys go out. We have to learn how to work together and fit together properly.

"It's not that we aren't talented enough. We aren't fitting the defense like Coach LeBeau is telling us to do."

The Steelers had a 10-point lead in the third quarter against the Raiders after Mike Wallace's 22-yard touchdown reception, a lead they normally are able to protect. But the defense uncharacteristically gave up 20 second half points, leading to the loss. 

"Coach LeBeau is going to put us in the best position to make plays, we have to go out there and execute," said Woodley. "He put us in great positions all game and we didn't go out and get it done. We have to take full responsibility and blame for not doing what we are supposed to do."

One of those getting blamed for the performance of the defense has been LeBeau, particularly after the Raiders said the defense was predictable. Being predictable isn't the problem according to the players, not executing is.

"We haven't changed here since I have been here, since Coach (Bill) Cowher," said safety Troy Polamalu. "But you still have to block us, still have to win one-on-one matchups and they won more than we did.

"You can throw on film from Carnell Lake, Rod Woodson and Darren Perry and substitute numbers and it's the same defense. It's our strength. It's a difficult defense to understand, but it's still about winning matchups and when you don't we have results like last week."

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