- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH – That the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive starters were yelling at each other on the sidelines last Thursday night is not surprising.
That one of the quietest players on the team was among those shouting might qualify as shocking.
And Troy Polamalu’s rant is at least telling of how poorly the Steelers’ defense played in a 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I hope everyone appreciates it because you don’t hear (that) from him real often,” Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said Saturday. “If anybody’s going to do that, I appreciate Troy doing it, because he’s been in this. It’s not like he’s going to take plays off. He wants to be great and now, and everybody should want to be great now.”
The Steelers were anything but great in in their third preseason game.
They allowed the Eagles to go up and down the field and score 24 unanswered points on the way to an easy victory. The game raised concerns that for all of the changes the Steelers have made on defense, they won’t be appreciably better on that side of the ball following consecutive 8-8 seasons.
“It wasn’t good, obviously,” Polamalu said of the loss to the Eagles.
The eight-time Pro Bowl safety tried to downplay his rare outburst, which happened in the third quarter, and he was considerably more muted on Saturday than he was on the sidelines two nights earlier.
“I try to play the game with emotion,” Polamalu said before the Steelers reviewed film from the Eagles’ loss. “There’s a lot of room for improvement. Guys were definitely playing with urgency, but we’ll see when we watch the film.”
When asked if the message Polamalu sent by turning up the volume has resonated with the Steelers’ defensive players, Heyward said, “If it doesn’t, what are we doing? It just shows he cares. When someone wants more from you, the whole defense has to step up. We’ve got guys that really care about this defense, guys who have been in this defense. It’s up to everybody to play with that sense of pride.”
And play better.
“Hopefully that’s not a telling story of how we’ll be this year,” Polamalu said of the Steelers’ defensive showing in Philadelphia. “Hopefully we’ll be able to learn from these mistakes and get better.”