It’s one thing for the Jaguars to crow that the Steelers played into their hands on Sunday. It’s another thing for a Steeler to say it.
At a time when so much focus has been devoted to things said by offensive players like Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown, a midlevel member of the offense may have provided the clearest indication yet regarding one of the biggest problems in Pittsburgh: Predictability.
“I think defenses have had good game plans for us,” tight end Jesse James said after the 30-9 loss, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “Jacksonville did a good job [on Sunday] taking away crossing routes, which we’ve been using the past couple of weeks. Obviously, they game-planned for that, hanging in the flat there, keeping an eye on us coming across. . . . I think we will just hopefully be a little less predictable, get more game-plan stuff in.”
While tactful, it’s a clear criticism of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. It’s ultimately his responsibility to ensure that the game plans change enough from week to week — and that strategy be disguised from snap to snap — to avoid situations like this.
Some (like Ben McAdoo) would say good execution can cure these flaws. But if there’s both an issue with execution and a problem with the telegraphing of plays, the Steelers are going to have plenty more days like the one they had on Sunday. And Steelers fans, whose patience is rarely tested because the team is rarely mediocre or worse, could quickly become restless.