‘A defense on the turf will die on the vine,’ says Tomlin: Steelers must find ways to get off the field

An interesting fact about yesterday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers is that while the 49ers held possession of the football for nearly 15 minutes (37:23 to 22:37) of the Steelers, they only played five plays. (66 to 61).

How to calculate this? Well, the Steelers attempted 15 more passes and had five incompletions, so here’s five more chances that time wasn’t running out. The 49ers also got the lead on their opening possession, so they had no interest in keeping the clock.

Even though they didn’t play more snaps by the end of the game, the Steelers defense had been on the field much longer than their counterparts, and this was especially true earlier in the game. It was a catastrophic situation.

Time of possession has become a part of it as well. “The defense that’s on the turf is going to die in early September,” Coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday in his post-game press conference via the team’s website.

Translating that, what he’s saying is that when your defense is on the field a lot in the early parts of the season when your stamina is not at its highest, the unit will fall apart and make mistakes and get beat.

Consider this: The Steelers never had a single possession lasting more than two minutes until the second half. Their longest possession was their first, as they ran for 1:45. Their first five possessions, of course, consisted of three plays each, with four triples and interceptions and one triple and an interception.

By contrast, the 49ers’ opening possession lasted nearly four minutes, which alone was nearly as long as the Steelers’ first three innings. Their next four possessions averaged over four minutes.

“They did a lot of things well, but I don’t know anything specifically. It was an accumulation of variables, if you will,” Tomlin said, explaining how the 49ers kept things moving when they didn’t. Defense. We have to switch on the offensive.

“Just look at the time of possession. I think the last time I looked up was 36 or something to 22 something. The day is going to unfold the way you want it when it’s not balanced in that way. And it boils down to a possession-based style of play on the ball”.

It also didn’t help that the Steelers were plagued by injuries, as Cameron Hayward and DeMarvin Leal were both out on defense for the game. Larry Ogunjubi was already suffering from some sort of foot ailment even though he was playing. It’s safe to say that these are not ideal conditions.

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