Scott Brown | ESPN.com
PITTSBURGH — The Steelers said they didn’t make any adjustments at halftime, but free safety Ryan Clark said Wednesday that the players made a few of their own on the way to shutting out the Detroit Lions in the second half Sunday.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz echoed similar sentiments after the Steelers scored 17 unanswered points in the second half in beating Detroit 37-27 at Heinz Field.
Steelers coaches might not have authorized any defensive adjustments, but the players’ tweaks helped to hold Calvin Johnson without a catch in the final two quarters and limit Matthew Stafford to 3-of-16 passing.
“We didn’t necessarily change the defense Coach [Dick] LeBeau called, but we used the way the defense was set up to play it in ways to give Stafford looks where he felt like he’d have to force in into Calvin, and guys made plays on other players, which really helped,” Clark said.
Johnson caught five passes for 163 yards in the second quarter as the Lions scored 27 points and turned a two-touchdown deficit into a seven-point lead. But the Steelers shut down the NFL’s leading receiver in the second half with their quarter package.
The Steelers use three safeties and three cornerbacks in that defense, and it also stymied Stafford, who threw for 327 yards in the first half. Stafford did not complete a pass in the fourth quarter, and he misfired on his final 10 attempts.
“We did a plethora of things, things you can do when there’s three safeties in the game at one time,” Clark said of himself, Troy Polamalu and Will Allen. “We talked about it, communicated it well. It wasn’t hard to figure out who was catching the ball, and once we did that there was just some things we felt like we could tweak to our advantage because schematically they were just trying to attack us the same way.”
Clark said the players hear about it from the coaches if they make their own adjustments, even if the Steelers win.
And if they lose?
“Then you get in a lot of trouble,” Clark said with a laugh.
Clark said the second-half adjustments did not reflect a disconnect between the players and coaches but were just something he and his teammates felt they needed to do to as far as showing different looks and disguising coverages.
“They tell us [not to make adjustments] because they have to tell us you can’t do those things, and we understand that,” Clark said. “But in the end we’re the guys who are out there, and there’s no players who want to win more than we do.”
Despite the job the defense did in the second half, Polamalu did not give it a pass for its play in the second quarter.
“Games are played in four quarters,” Polamalu said, “not two.”
Polamalu said the defense has to get a lot better if the Steelers are to continue their push to make the playoffs following an 0-4 start.
“We have given up more plays this year than we have in the past. That’s just the facts,” Polamalu said. “We just haven’t played well as a team in general.”
- Covered Steelers for six years for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
- Author of five books, including “Heaven Sent: The Heather Miller Story,” which highlights the friendship a young girl with cancer developed with several Steelers players