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Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher thinks the team is “soft on defense” after it dropped to 3-3 on the season after a 31-10 road loss to the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 12.
Cowher shared his sentiments on the Steelers on CBS-TV in the wake of a 31-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. Former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward also chimed in on Pittsburgh’s mediocrity on NBC-TV, per The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette:
“Even the alumni are upset.
“Not since Dwight White derided one version of a 1980s Steelers defense as ‘soft and cheesy’ has a former Steelers player or coach leveled such criticism as two did Sunday. It came after the Steelers lost in Cleveland, 31-10, and it came hard and tight from both who described them in similar ways.
“‘I never thought I would say these words,’ former coach Bill Cowher said on CBS-TV, ‘but Pittsburgh has gotten soft.’ He called them ‘finesse on offense, soft on defense.’
“He was not alone. Hines Ward, their all-time leading receiver, chimed in on NBC-TV.
“‘They’re very close to hitting that panic button…The defense looks soft. Guys are just able to run the ball up and down the field. I look at their personnel; they can’t cover anybody in the secondary. Offensively, I thought I’d never say it, but the Steelers are a finesse offense right now. I don’t even know who these guys are.’
“Stinging comments from some of their own, for sure. Ike Taylor and Heath Miller played with Ward and for Cowher. Taylor, rehabilitating a broken arm as he continues to try to return to play, does not agree.
“‘Nah, I don’t. What we went through last year, when we were 0-4, and there was no panic. There was a sense of urgency, if anything. I don’t see any panic.’
“Miller said there’s nothing wrong with the offense that better play once they get near the goal line would solve. The Steelers rank sixth in the NFL in yards per game on offense (396.5) yet just 24th in points per game (20.7).
“When they get inside the opponent 20 or red zone, the Steelers offense ranks next-to-last, having scored touchdowns on just 36.84 percent. Bruce Arians’ Arizona Cardinals rank last in the red zone even though they are 4-1.
“‘We’re searching for answers,’ Miller said. ‘Obviously, we have to execute better down there. All we can do is try to execute the plays we’re given the best we can, and that should be our focus in this locker room.’
“Said tackle Kevin Beachum, ‘Offensively, we have to find a way to finish. It’s hard to put your finger on one point, but we have to find a way to get 7 points when we get down in the red zone. It’s hard to explain, but we have to find a way to fix it.'”
For his part, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin dismissed Cowher’s and Ward’s criticisms as “elevator music,” per Bouchette’s colleague at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Gerry Dulac:
“Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he is going to turn over ‘all stones’ in an attempt to get his team back on track and indicated that could include getting three of his rookie draft choices more involved on offense and defense.
“Tomlin also said he was unaffected by comments made by a couple former Steelers — coach Bill Cowher and wide receiver Hines Ward — that his team was too ‘soft.’
“Cowher and Ward, who are television analysts, made comments on their respective networks after the Steelers were drubbed by Cleveland Sunday. Both complained the Steelers were a finesse team on offense, soft on defense.
“‘I don’t worry about that; that’s elevator music,’ Tomlin said. ‘Love those guys, but those guys are on the outside looking in.'”
ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter Scott Brown points out some similarities between Cowher’s and Tomlin’s coaching tenures in Pittsburgh:
“Cowher went 161-99-1 in 15 seasons as the Steeler’s head coach, and he led the team to its fifth Super Bowl title in 2005.
“Like Tomlin, Cowher was just 34 years old when the Steelers hired him as their head coach.
“Cowher’s most trying stretch came from 1998-2000 when the Steelers missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons. The Steelers are in danger of matching that after going 8-8 in 2012-13 and starting 3-3 this season.
“The Steelers stuck with Cowher and he rewarded their patience by leading them to the playoffs three consecutive seasons as well as the Super Bowl win.
“Seven of Tomlin’s assistants either coached with Cowher or played for him in Pittsburgh, including defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Seven current Steelers players also suited up for Cowher, including strong safety Troy Polamalu, outside linebacker James Harrison and defensive end Brett Keisel.
“Cowher has been an analyst for CBS since leaving the Steelers.”