NFL round-up: Hazing and health concerns aside, week nine was a watershed moment for Pittsburgh Steelers

A look at the major talking points from week nine in the NFL

It’s been a turbulent week of off-field action but, before we get to that, the biggest football storyline this week was the Pittsburgh Steelers and their record setting performance against New England on Sunday.

"You evaluate everything. You have to after a performance like that and we will.

"Those people who are lacking effort won't be playing. It's just that simple."

They were Mike Tomlin's words on Sunday, following his sides' 55-31 defeat to resurgent Patriots offense as he struggled to put into words the futility of the Steelers performance.

The cracks in the Pittsburgh defence have been evident all season and this latest loss - the first time since 1989 that the Steelers have allowed 34+ points in three games during any one season - only serves to reinforce the sudden realisation that this isn't your typical Steelers' defence.

Struggling in all aspects of the game, Tomlin has looked for answers within and has already benched Ziggy Hood and this years' first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones, but the holes keep appearing.

Shamarko Thomas, the Pittsburgh rookie safety, was picked on relentlessly by Tom Brady who looked fluid again, perhaps buoyed by the return of the dynamic Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola and it showed.

It's a long way away from heady days of a defence that could, and would, suffocate opponents on their way to a top-five ranking for six consecutive seasons (between 2007-2012.)

Perhaps the most startling statistic of them all is this; the 55 points Pittsburgh conceded against New England was just shy of a quarter of the 223 points the allowed during the whole of the 2008 season when they won the Super Bowl.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the 610 total yards of Patriot offense was the most any unit has allowed since the Steelers formation in 1933.

Famed defensive mastermind Dick LeBeau, the Steelers' defensive coordinator, is 76 in September and, with a host of changes expected at the seasons' end, the need to reinforce a once-dominant unit is more glaring than ever.

 

Rookie Hazing

The well publicised hazing of rookies is well known, and generally accepted in NFL circles. Serving as a light-hearted reminder of where they stand in the locker rooms' pecking order, the ritual allows veterans to have a little fun with their new team-mates.

This week however, following Jonathan Martin's disappearance after a canteen prank, things appear to have gone too far in Miami.

Suspended indefinitely for his part in the process, Richie Incognito has vowed to clear his name after details emerged implicating him in proceedings on Monday, but it remains to be seen if those in charge of the Dolphins want him back.

Threatening Martin with violence, and peppering his language with racial slurs, Incognito has found himself suspended for conduct detrimental to the team and can expect the NFL to weigh in on proceedings too.

Acknowledging the issue, the Dolphins' released the following statement.

"We received notification today from Jonathan's representation about allegations of player misconduct.

"We are taking these allegations very seriously and plan to review the matter further. We have also reached out to the NFL and asked them to conduct an objective and thorough review. As an organization, we are committed to a culture of team-first accountability and respect for one another."

 

Texan concerns

Collapsing on the field, during half-time, Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak's discomfort was there for all to see.

Stretchered off, the initial signs were worrying but, following a host of tests, NFL reporter Ian Rapoport has reported that the Texans' head coach had suffered a 'mini-stroke' but revealed that it was treatable.

Classed, officially, as a transient ischemic attack (ITA), the coach's sudden illness was brought on as a result of a blood clot that affects blood flow to the brain. Perhaps more worryingly, it is often seen as a warning sign for a larger stroke but the early diagnosis ensure Kubiak gets the best treatment available.

On a more positive note however, while still in hospital, the Texans head coach has not suffered any residual effects but it is unclear how long he will be away from team duties.

In his absence, Wade Phillips - whose father Bum only recently passed away - is expected to take control of team duties.

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