"We just didn't communicate well," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The same comment was made throughout training camp as new Steelers center Justin Hartwig became acclimated to his surroundings.
So, was Hartwig the hub of the problem Sunday night as the Eagles sacked Steelers quarterbacks nine times? The center said he wasn't sure.
"I guess we did have some communication issues. That definitely happened," Hartwig said. "But I feel we had problems all the way across the board. I feel like guys kind of took turns messing up. I think guys got beat at times, but in addition to that guys just didn't block the right guys. Whether that's on me or the guy who didn't do it right, that's kind of up in the air. But we watched it on film, we talked about it."
As Hartwig bends over the ball before the play, he identifies the "mike" linebacker, and the rest of the line calls reverberate off that. James Farrior says it's not as easy to identify as simply looking for, say, No. 51.
"It's never that simple," Farrior said. "As a defense, we're never going to make it easy on the line or the quarterback, whoever's calling it. We'll always try to disguise it. I could be anywhere on the field. I might be the mike, but you don't know if I'm going to be the mike that play. I might be something else."
There's also a communication that must be made when the defense brings more players than the offense has in protection. That call's usually made by the quarterback, but of course no one would pin that problem on Roethlisberger yesterday.
"To generalize things and say it was this guy's fault, or this guy had a terrible game, it's not a fair thing to do," Hartwig said. "I think media – people on the outside – they want to blame somebody. They want a story. They want to point fingers. But really, the only people I really care about are the people who know what's going on: my teammates and my coaches. So as long as we have things figured out, that's all that's important to me. As long as we know who or what was messed up, we can get it corrected. That's what's important to me. Nobody on the outside knows what our pass protection schemes are, what our blocking schemes are. Nobody knows who was responsible for what on what play, so I don't think it's fair for anybody to point fingers.
"There are glaring things that happen during a game where you can say, ‘Yeah, that's his guy. He was blocking him and he got beat.' But for anybody on the outside to point fingers and say ‘It was this guy's fault on this play,' they really have no idea, so I don't really care what anybody says outside of our locker room."
Of course, all Steelers fans want to know is whether the problem has been rectified.
"Look," Hartwig said. "We haven't seen pressure like that this year and it was a learning process for us. We talked about it and we all know where our mistakes were. We gained experience from that and we're studying the heck out of this Baltimore film. We know exactly what they're going to do: They're going to bring pressure from all over the place. We're trying to prepare for anything they might bring at us, and Baltimore brings all different kinds of stuff.
"It was a good learning experience for us last week. Things won't be perfect against the Ravens, but I'd like to think things are going to be a lot better."
NOTES – Roethlisberger practiced and said he felt fine. … Missing practice were S Troy Polamalu (quadricep), T Marvel Smith (not injury related), CB Deshea Townsend (heel), WR Hines Ward (not injury related), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring), LB Donovan Woods (hamstring). … CB William Gay was limited by an ankle injury. … Ruled out of Monday night's game were NT Casey Hampton (groin), DE Brett Keisel (calf) and RB Willie Parker (knee). … Missing practice for the Ravens were DT Kelly Gregg (knee) and S Dawan Landry, who'll miss the game with a neck injury.