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Two years later, Steelers playing down to "old" role

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Ex-player turned media analyst Warren Sapp declared two years ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was "old, slow and it's over." He was a bit premature, but that defense is living up to those words this year.

The Steelers defense, which actually led the NFL in each of the past two seasons in fewest yards allowed, yielded the most yards in franchise history when New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady & Co. dropped 610 yards on them in a 55-31 victory Sunday. Those also are the most points the Steelers have allowed in team history.

With Steelers' record at 2-6, the 2013 season apparently is over for them. The last time they started 2-6 turned into Bill Cowher's final season. That was 2006, when they recovered to finish 8-8. But this team looks to be a long way from a recovery.

Head coach Mike Tomlin, for the second time in five games, threatened jobs, but his words seem hallow at this point.

"You re-evaluate everything," Tomlin said. "You have to after a performance like that, and we will. It doesn't necessarily mean we will change or change for the sake of changing, but we will look at every aspect of what we are doing and who we are doing it with because we can't have performances like that."

There aren't many more changes Tomlin could make, because he really has no young players to replace the old and slow on defense. Two of the primary offenders are safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. Behind them are rookie Shamarko Thomas and journeyman Robert Golden. They could start Thomas over one of them, but don't look for that to happen.

First-round draft pick Jarvis Jones already has been benched from his starting job because he lacked "detail" work. Young Cortez Allen lost his starting cornerback job earlier to veteran William Gay.

Tomlin has few choices in personnel changes as the Steelers head into the second half of the season trying to salvage something.

Notes: The Steelers have gone 16 games now without a 100-yard rusher. Running back Le'Veon Bell ran 16 times for 74 yards and had his longest run of the season, 25 yards. The last runner to get 100 was Isaac Redman, who had 147 vs. the New York Giants last October. The Steelers cut him two weeks ago. . . . Coach Mike Tomlin, on why he kept QB Ben Roethlisberger in the game to the bitter end, even after he was sacked another five times (31 for the season): "We ain't turning it down, we ain't running from anything. We have an opportunity to continue to work and get better, so we did that. The guys that were healthy were going to stay on the grass and finish the game."
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