Cam Heyward drew some attention Monday with the criticism he directed at his Pittsburgh Steelers defensive teammates in the 27-16 loss to the New England Patriots despite missing the game with a hamstring injury. The defensive end said he felt like his teammates “quit” after the Steelers pulled within 20-16 in the fourth quarter only to give up a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
“It was 20-16, and we let them get that. And it was like we just quit,” he told reporters. “I don’t mean to say that lightly, but I just felt like we had so many opportunities out there.”
On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Keith Butler knew he would have to answer for the way his defense folded down the stretch of a second straight game. He chose to refute Heyward’s point, telling reporters he didn’t think the defense quit, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Steelers were without Heyward, one of their best players on defense. And they were facing Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the explosive Patriots offense. Butler’s assertion implies they simply weren’t good enough to win the matchup, which seemed to echo inside linebacker Ryan Shazier’s critique that the defense is currently “trash.”
Through seven games in which the Steelers are 4-3, Pittsburgh ranks 27th in total defense. They are 28th in defending the pass and 16th against the run.
In other words, the bye week is coming at the right time.