Whatever It Takes?

In the wake of absorbing a slap in the face from Mike Tomlin, the beleaguered Steelers' defense has received a pat on the back from its offensive brethren.

Tomlin went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Steelers' 29-yard line with 3:51 remaining in a tied game on Sunday in Oakland, mostly because he had no faith in his defense being able to stop the Raiders.

Now, guard Willie Colon has revealed that he's informed cornerback Ike Taylor not to worry, that the offense will carry the Steelers while the defense gropes to find its game.

"What I told him was I remember there were times when this offense couldn't score," Colon explained. "I remember that Super Bowl year we struggled and we struggled. The run game wasn't efficient. The pass game wasn't efficient. And our defense was all about trying to pitch shutouts to give us a chance at the end of games.

"We understand right now they're not firing on all cylinders and we're doing well. So whatever we gotta do to kind of pick up their slack, you know, that's what a team does.

"I told him, if anything, I've been here long enough to know that we're kind of in debt to them for how well they've played over the years and how long they've kept this offense in games. I told him, ‘Don't panic, we're going to do our best to keep putting points on the board until they get back to where they need to be.'

"If we gotta score 45, that's what we gotta do. We have a lot of faith in that defense. They're our brothers in arms and we're gonna ride with them. We just don't want them to get down on themselves because they haven't had the performance they expected."

If that's not rock bottom for the Steelers' defense, one can only to shudder to imagine what that might look, sound and feel like.

"It's not about just scoring points," Colon continued. "It's about telling them we have their back. There have been times I remember where we just flat out couldn't score. And that defense kept teams at bay. I told him, ‘If the tides are turned they gotta stick with us and we gotta stick with them.'

"However long we gotta do it, there's no timetable to it. We got a job to do no matter what."

Welcome to what linebacker Larry Foote describes as "uncharted waters," a bizarro world where the Steelers' offense tries to compensate for a defensive unit that's looked absolutely overwhelmed in second halves on the road.

The defense has stumbled a time or two before over the years, but such occurrences have always been infrequent enough that there's still a shock factor involved whenever a Steelers' defense shows up as anything less than dominant in any circumstance.

When that's happened previously, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and his once-revolutionary schemes have been questioned, as they're being questioned now.

LeBeau's most typical response has always been something along the lines of "check the record book" while maintaining that all would soon be well.

Those willing to do so now would be reminded the Steelers finished No. 1 in the NFL in total defense under LeBeau in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2011.

But on Wednesday LeBeau offered more of a mea culpa than we're used to hearing. Among his responses to an interrogation from the media where these:

* "I always look at myself first and hope (the players) do, too."

* "It comes down to how we play and how we execute and the coach is involved in that, too. I gotta give them things they can execute."

* "Most of football is still blocking and tackling, really, but I think coaching can help. I don't wash my hands when we're not playing like I want us to."

Lest you think LeBeau has suddenly become frustrated and/or flummoxed after all these years, consider what amounted to the closing argument for the defense.

* "We gotta trust the defense, trust our teammate, focus and play. I think the results will come, I really do. I believe that."

In the meantime, the offense has vowed to do as much as necessary, which is just fine with Foote.

"We're gonna to get that corrected but they can keep scoring 35," he said. "They're gonna score more because we're going to get 'em the ball back a lot more than they've been getting it."


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