Three games. During which there were 128 pass attempts. And 132 called pass plays overall, because four times the opposing quarterback scrambled for positive yardage after dropping back to pass.
When the Steelers defeated the Washington Redskins by three touchdowns in the opener and Cam Heyward stood in the visitor's locker room and pointed out the lack of a pass rush, it gave the impression of a team leader trying to keep his teammates' heads from swelling after only one game. When the Bengals came to Heinz Field and were in desperate catch-up mode while staring at a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the lack of a pass rush got lost in the significance of protecting the homefield by defeating the defending division champions.
But in Philadelphia, the lack of a pass rush contributed to the most lopsided loss of the Mike Tomlin era. And it's fair to refer to it as the lack of a pass rush instead of only a lack of sacks, because there hasn't been any consistent pressure generated either. According to the team's own statistics, the Steelers defense has notched only seven quarterback hurries/pressures over the course of those three games and 132 called pass plays
"Our lack of tangible pressure in the (Eagles) game probably had a lot to do with how the game unfolded, and their ability to keep us off balance and throw the ball quickly and take not take the calculated risk that usually creates the climate where quarterback pressure and splash happen," said Tomlin at his weekly news conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
"In some of the other games," Tomlin added, "particularly where we were in control and had a lead, I was much more disappointed in our ability to put pressure on the quarterback in those circumstances because we had our opponent somewhat one-dimensional and should have taken better advantage of it. Washington being an example of that."
Arthur Moats has the team's only sack – that coming against the Bengals and going for a 0-yard loss – and William Gay and Stephon Tuitt share the team lead with two pressures apiece. The other pressures have been recorded by Heyward, Moats, and L.J. Fort.
In a lot of instances over the season's first three games, the Steelers have rushed four, and sometimes only three, depending upon the down-and-distance and the margin on the scoreboard. That strategy leads to players having to win one-on-one matchups to get to the quarterback, but Tomlin refused to point to that as the only issue.
"We also have to take responsibility from a coaching perspective," said Tomlin. "I'd be remiss if I didn't say that, and I mean that when I say it. When you perform the way we performed last week, it's all of us. I'm not here assessing blame. We all have to be responsible for how we performed in that stadium. We have to do a better job of putting these guys in position to win those one-on-one (pass-rush) matchups, and they in turn have to win those one-on-one matchups."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"During this particular course of the journey, you have an opportunity to learn about yourself in terms of how you respond to adversity. I also believe this week we'll get a snapshot of this group's resilience and its ability to respond to injury because we have a number of guys who won't be available to us for a number of reasons.
"Ramon Foster (chest) is very questionable. Eli Rogers (turf toe) is very questionable. Ryan Shazier (knee) is very questionable. Robert Golden (hamstring) will be evaluated, and we'll let his practice availability and participation be our guide. Ryan Shazier, I know you're wondering about him. He got hurt in the game. He got a puncture wound. We weren't able to fix it at the stadium. He was transported to a hospital, and they were able to fix it there. He got back to the stadium as the game was ending. He appears to be fine. We'll watch him for anything that needs to be done with regard to that injury throughout the week, but we expect him to be available to us.
"Sean Davis sustained a back injury during the game, and we'll check him from an availability standpoint. Him being a young guy, he needs to be able to practice in order to participate in the game.
"We have a couple of guys who have been dealing with existing injuries and have had varying degrees of practice participation, and we'll continue with that. Cody Wallace (knee) practiced some in a limited capacity last week, and we'll see where he is. Rosie Nix (back), same thing."