The Steelers' defense is under fire after years of dominant play, so veteran wide receiver Hines Ward says it's time for the offense to turn up the volume.
"The defense has carried us for many years now," Ward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday. "And now they're going through this situation. We need to be there for our teammates and for this organization -- we have to go out and make more plays. ... We have a lot of guys who are (ticked) off right now."
Much has been made of Pittsburgh's aging defenders. We heard Warren Sapp bash the team as "old and slow," and NFL Network counterpart Marshall Faulk said the Steelerslook "defeated" and "whipped."
On paper, Pittsburgh's 72 points allowed is fifth best in the NFL, and the unit ranks second overall -- 30 other teams would settle for that -- but the perception is that something's missing. For one, a flood of key players have been injured, starting with defensive end Aaron Smith and linebacker James Harrison, who underwent eye surgery this week.
"James Harrison went down! He's like the terminator," Ward said. "I never thought he'd miss any games. That puts a lot of stress -- not really stress, but importance -- on offense that we have to control the ball, keep (Titans running back) Chris Johnson off the field."
Big Ben bobbing around in a Darth Vader-esque walking boot? Harrison bedridden with his little pirate's eye patch? Coach Mike Tomlin increasingly bemused on the sideline? For the first time in ages, the Steelers are feeling the heat, but this is a team that has dug itself out of messes before. We won't count them out just yet.