Tunch Ilkin, X's & O's Week 5 - Post-Game Browns

<b>George Von Benko</b>: Tunch Ilkin, the worst fate to be befall a Steeler team is to lose to the Cleveland Browns. That's exactly what happened. I can't ever recall, in a long time, seeing a crowd leave that early and being disappointed that quickly. It was just a bad evening for the Steelers. <br><br> <b>Tunch Ilkin</b>: Well, I can. It was against the Browns, too, 51 to nothing in 1989, the opening game of the season. I only remember it so vividly because I was there.


Tunch breaks down what happened Sunday Night


You know George? You're right. I think more than any other game, I don't even know if the players today realize it, you always play the Steelers-Browns game for the community, for the neighborhood. If you talk to fans in this city, they'll all say, "I don't care who you lose, don't lose to the Browns. I don't care if you guys go 2 and 14 as long as those two wins are versus the Cleveland Browns." In my day, whenever you lost to the Browns you actually felt like you were really letting the city down.

GVB: You and I were talking before we did one of the segments last week and you said you had a bad feeling. I guess that came to fruition.

TI: What made me have that apprehensive feeling, George, was that the Browns were a desperate team last week. There was a lot of turmoil coming out of their camp. You could hear the bickering. Butch Davis is a good football coach. I believe a good football coach is in tune with the psyche of his football team. I had a sense that he was concerned he would lose the team. Not that he would, but there was that concern that if you lose another game, especially when you into the season with great expectations as they did, and one thing after another, injuries just kept hurting the Browns, they're playing horribly against Baltimore giving up 300 yards rushing, that was a football team that had to stop the slide. Because of their feelings towards the Steelers and losing three times last year, losing twice the year before, there's a real sense that we owe these guys. On the other side of the coin, I was just concerned that the Steelers would be thinking, "Hey, we got these guys' number. We always beat them." Not that they prepared with any less intensity or focus. But in the back of your mind, if you're always stomping a guy, you're thinking that you're going to continue. That was the main thing that had me concerned last week.

GVB: One stat, and I realize that you can get too caught up in statistics, but a stat that really caught my attention was one that was announced at halftime. Going back to the Tennessee game and then the first two quarters of the Cleveland game, I think it was like 31 of 33 passes or 32 of 34 passes completed against the Steelers. That's a startling number.

TI: It's a shocking number. If I'm a Steeler defender, I'm thinking, "What is going on here?" All you can do is shake you head. It's almost like that the mistakes were so many that… last week we talked about the game in Tennessee. We can actually point to this, that and the other and say if they fix this, they make a tweak here, this will change. But after last week you just sit there and go, "Oh man, where do you stop the bleeding?"

GVB: I looked at what happened offensively and of course a lot of focus has been on the offensive line, the running game. Tommy Maddox has come in for his share of criticism. But I harken back to something that a coach said to me, a former coach said to me during the off-season. And he warned me at that time. He said that Maddox had a great year, but it was the first time he's ever really done anything. He felt that maybe Tommy might be a one-year wonder, a flash in the pan. Now, it may be too early to start thinking that, but it has to creep into the back of your head a little bit.

TI: I think that a lot of times a one-year wonder is the result of a guy not willing to commit to really perfecting his craft. I don't believe that Tommy Maddox is that kind of person. I do think, however, that when you play sixteen weeks, when you start every week in a long football season, a long NFL season, you need to develop a consistency and a focus. It is a whole different ballgame playing 16 games. I think that with any player that there's going to be some inconsistencies over that period of time. The key is to reload after a bad performance. One of the best things to have as a professional football player is a short memory. Because as soon as you can put the bad play, bad game, bad experience out of your mind and get on to the next play, next game, next experience, the better football player you're going to be, the more you are going to grow as an athlete. Because bad times are going to happen and that just comes with the territory. How you respond to those bad games, or even bad stretches, is what will really determine your longevity in this league and your success as well.

GVB: Going into Denver, a tough place to play, it will be interesting to see how this team responds, the mettle of this team.

TI: We've talked about this before. As you look at this team the last three years, they don't do well during prosperity. But they well with their backs against the wall. As I look at this week, the preparation for Denver, this is a football team with its backs against the wall. I am confident that they are going to play well. They always do. Whenever their backs are against the wall, they come out firing. I expect that same thing. And yes, Denver is a difficult place to play and it's going to be loud and all that stuff, but I've always liked the way the Steelers have bounced back after a seemingly hopeless situation.

GVB: Not to beat a dead horse, one other thing before we get to the question from the fans, special teams continue to be a thorn in the Steelers' side and the penalties especially in the Cleveland game, the block in the back that cost Antwaan Randle El the punt return, the off sides on the kickoff and the next play was almost run all the way back, and there was a block in the back later… those are things that when you're not really playing well on special teams that magnifies it.

TI: You have to understand, if you're a special teams member, you have to take pride in that. You can't just say, "Oh, I'm just playing special teams until I become a starter. Oh, this is just special teams." You have to take the same focus, the same attitude, maybe even more, to special teams because it truly is 1/3 of the game. I hear people give lip service to that, but I wonder how many people actually believe it. I tell who does, special team coaches. If you're a backup player, you have to take that opportunity to say, hey, I'm going to make a play. It's the only time I'm getting on the field via special teams; I'm going to make a play. So, you have to prepare with the same intensity when you play offensive tackle, linebacker, whatever position.

GVB: That brings us to our fan question of the week and this comes from txblitz: "Why do the Steelers not blitz and play press coverage on third and long? Other times force teams to punt by completing the underneath stuff and tackling the guy before the marker. Are the players not executing the defense or is the concept just flawed?"

TI: I don't think the concept is flawed., George. You know what? They mix up their coverages. They do both. You see them play a lot of press coverage and aggressive coverage with the blitz. You'll see these soft zones with blitz. You'll see press coverage tight with a three-man rush. You see it all. The Steelers never do just one thing, but you got to make plays. I mean, you have to make plays. Once you've looked at the game plan, you've studied it; you know what's going on, now you have to make a play. The balls in the air, you've got to make a play on the ball.

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