Tunch Ilkin, X's & O's Week 4 - Post Game

<b>George Von Benko</b>: Let's get into the post mortem after this disappointing loss to the Tennessee Titans. There were some things that just turned that game around completely. I look at the safety and then the interception just changed the whole momentum of that ball game. <br><br> <b>Tunch Ilkin</b>: George, I think those were two things that #1, allowed Tennessee to get back into the game and then got the Steelers starting to question what's going on here.


Tunch breaks down what happened vs the Titans


But I think the thing that was the real killer for the Steelers is because when you go into halftime and you're down, you know that you've dominated the first half, and you know that it is just a fluke that you're down, that you'd know that you'd be able to come back just by the way you played in the first half. What they preach at half time is that coach Cowher, after they make all the adjustments from an Xs and Os standpoint and grouping adjustments, what they really stress is to start fast in the third quarter. to come out and play well. The Steelers are kicking off to Tennessee, who goes three and out. You couldn't ask for a better script. They punt and the Steelers drive the ball the length of the field, almost and get to a point where they're kicking a field goal. The field goal is partially blocked, hits the crossbar and it doesn't go in. That's the killer. Because after that guys are walking off the field with their heads down going, "What just happened?" But if you're the Tennessee Titans, you just dodged another bullet. You've been doing it all day long as the Tennessee Titans have, you're starting to think you're charmed. You're starting to think you're bulletproof, that it is just one of those days when all of the breaks are going to go your way. Conversely, the Steelers feel just the opposite.

GVB: You touched on one of things I wanted to talk about, that's the inability to punch it in for touchdowns when you get into the red zone, which has been a problem throughout the first part of the season. Bill Cowher addressing this in his press conference says he doesn't think they're going to change anything up scheme-wise. But that they've just got to start making some plays. It is becoming a big, big problem because as Jerome Bettis and some players told me after the game, he says, "That when you get down there and you work so hard to get down there and you have to settle for three, that's a victory for the defense."

TI: The other thing is that you start questioning your ability. It's difficult enough to play this game, but when you don't have confidence that you can score when you get into the red zone. You can't hit pay dirt. It's almost a mindset, George. When you get down there, you've got to up the intensity. The stakes are now higher. Points are at stake. So, you can go from 20-to-20 with more of a lackadaisical mindset. When you get inside the red zone, you've got to up the intensity and you've got to be able to put them away. The key in doing that is to win on first down. If you win on first down, and what I mean by winning first down is getting four yards or more on first down, you have the entire playbook at your disposal, for the most part. When you are in second and long, say you try to run and it's stopped and it's second and 9 or you throw an incomplete pass and it's second and ten, now your playbook starts to shrink. Conversely, the defense's playbook expands, putting yourself at a disadvantage. That's why more than anything else when you get into red zone you must win on first down.

GVB: We've talked a little about what happened offensively against Tennessee. Defensively, not an awful lot of numbers yardage-wise for Tennessee, but there were big plays.

TI: There were three big plays, well four if you count the touchdown pass that was scored on DeWayne Washington in the red zone. The three that involved Chad Scott, the catch by Justin McCareins for the touchdown where he does a great swim move, the ball that's up for grabs by Drew Bennett, and the ball that was under thrown on Chad Scott as well. You look at those plays, and those three plays probably accounted for most of Tennessee's passing yardage because everything else was kept all underneath short of the first down markers. The Steelers secondary, for the most part, played very, very well. You look at the way Chad got beat all three times, it's not like he was scorched. He was in a position to make a play. He was tight on his coverage, playing very physical, doing what he likes to do, what he feels confident doing. As a coach, if your corners are getting beat so badly because there is so much separation, that's one thing. But if your opponent's receivers are making catches with coverage draped all over them, that's something else. I used to have a coach that said, "Hey, those guys are on scholarship too." Next week, those plays that Chad Scott misses, he makes those plays. To me, I don't look at that as "what are we going to do with the secondary. I think that is good aggressive play and you're going to make some plays and you're going to miss some plays.

GVB: That's the beauty of the NFL. I talked to some of the fellows after the ballgame and they can't dwell on it. It's done. It's over with. You've got to move on now.

TI: I think they have something here called the 24-hour rule. You can cry in your beer for the next 24 hours after the loss, but then you come in and start getting ready for Cleveland. I think that is a great philosophy. This is the kind of game, George, where in the short term it will kill you. Sunday night, you're laying in bed, as a play or coach you're going, "Ah, if only I would've done this or I could've done that and we should've won this game and how did we let that get away." You agonize over that, but the positive is that, hey, it sure beats getting beat physically and just getting waxed. Those are the kind of games that have a more long-term effect. See, this game, this loss to the Titans will have a very short-term effect. In fact, after the press conference it's done, it's gone. These guys know they're good. They know that they're good enough to win. They know that they're good enough to play with the elite teams in the National Football League. And yes, this loss hurts, but you get over it. It's early enough in the season you get over this. This is the kind of loss you don't want going down the stretch into the playoffs.

GVB: That brings us to our first fan question of the week. Of course we'll do another fan question when we do the preview of the Browns tomorrow. This comes from a person whose handle is GroveStud, "Has Bruener's deactivation, the play-calling, the O-line's blocking or the RB's running been the primary reason for the poor showing of our running game?" To put Tunch on the spot, can he pick only one reason for the woes of the running attack? That might be impossible to pick only one reason.

TI: You know, it's never one reason. And George, you know this as well as I do, it's a combination of many things. I'll give you a prime example. When I was looking at the 4 tries inside the one on tape from the Tennessee game at the end there, a different guy busted on every play. On one play, the defensive tackle between the center and the right guard got penetration and stopped up the play. On another play, the guy playing inside the Steelers tight end, he rams inside, he's the one that penetrates. He's the one that makes the play. That's kind of the way that the running game has been all year. At times it's clicked, and at times it has not. When it has not is because there's one breakdown left or right, here or there. So, to say it is because is not activated, and by the way he was activated this week, you can't put it on that. You can't put it on, "Is it Jerome or is it Amos?" And you can't put it all on the offensive line. You can put it on all of the above. If everyone one of those areas just gets a little bit better. If I as an offensive lineman do my job a little better, and the guy next to me and next to him, if the running backs run a little bit harder, and we're more successful on first down running the ball, the cumulative effect of all those three things that I just listed are going to have a huge effect on the Pittsburgh Steelers running the football.

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