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Steelers need to fix leaky run defense

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin did not have to review film from the 31-21 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday night to identify one of the many areas where the Pittsburgh Steelers came up short following their trip across the state.

“In a nutshell not enough guys coming off blocks and making tackles,” the Steelers coach said. “Defensive football is very simple at times. It’s about defeating blocks and making tackles.”

The Steelers did not do nearly enough of that against the Eagles.

And they have been lacking in that critical component of defense the entire preseason.

The Eagles gashed the Steelers for 182 rushing yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. They were still able to run the ball at will even after LeSean McCoy left the game after the second series with a thumb injury.

And the Eagles’ success on the ground was not an aberration.

The Steelers have given up 4.8 yards per carry in three games. What is troubling about that is they yielded 115.6 rushing yards per game last season, so it’s not like the Steelers can expect to just begin stopping the run once the games start counting.

“I think this humbled us,” starting nose tackle Steve McLendon said. “We’re going to watch film, we’re going to correct it and we’re going to get better from this.”

Ryan Shazier echoed similar sentiments after the rookie inside linebacker didn’t play nearly as well as he had last Saturday night in his NFL debut.

“We were feeling pretty good coming in and but [the loss] really showed us that we have to get back in the office and keep working,” Shazier said. “It will humble us a little bit.”

A review of the film from the loss should give the Steelers a better idea of what they need to clean up.

It should also heighten the urgency in practice this week even though the starters will be sparingly if at all Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Panthers in the final preseason game.

“We have to play for the team. We have to play for each other,” McLendon said. “We can’t let this distract us from our goal. We all know what the common goal is.”

They also know that the Steelers have no chance at that goal -- competing for a seventh Super Bowl title -- if they can’t do something as basic as stopping the run.