TORONTO -- James Harrison does not seem to agree with the rest of his teammates. He is not buying the excuses that the Steelers' defense is not playing very well merely because it is the preseason and the unit is not game-planning for the opponent.
Harrison, a Pro Bowl outside linebacker and the team's Most Valuable Player last season, was upset after the 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills Thursday night and criticized the mindset of his defensive teammates for the way the starting unit has performed in the preseason.
So, while some of his teammates pooh-poohed the poor tackling and the two touchdowns allowed to the Bills, the third-worst scoring team in the National Football League last season, Harrison stood at his locker and warned that it is time for the defense to start performing before bad habits carry over to the regular season.
"We're going out there and treating the preseason too much like the preseason," Harrison said. "We're going out there and thinking everything is just going to come when the regular season begins and we're just out there playing snap for snap, getting our timing and not playing up to the level were capable of playing at. I don't feel that's OK."
The first-team defense was on the field for only one series against the Philadelphia Eagles and three against the Bills. But, on those four possessions, the defense has allowed a field goal and two touchdowns with scoring drives of 67, 70 and 90 yards.
The Bills made it look easy, too, rushing for 71 yards on two series and getting a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Trent Edwards to tight end Robert Royal.
"You go out there and have two teams run the length of field on us three times out of four series, hell, yeah, that's concerning," Harrison said.
And Harrison didn't want to hear that the Steelers' defense intentionally showed little of its substitution or blitz packages against the Bills, using the nickel defense on only five occasions during the first three possessions.
On the opening scoring drive, the base 3-4 defense was on the field for nine of the Bills' 10 plays.
"I feel like our base defense is enough to do what we need to do," Harrison said.
"We're just not playing up to the level we're capable of right now. Something has to change."
After the game, coach Mike Tomlin criticized the sloppy tackling and said it was one of the reasons the Steelers did not use many, if any, of its sub packages.
"When you're not tackling, you got to play basic football," Tomlin said.
The problems on defense are merely a continuation of what happened toward the end of the 2007 season, even though the Steelers finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the league in overall defense. They couldn't stop the run, they allowed too many deep passes and they had problems protecting late leads.
So far, they haven't used the preseason to correct any of the flaws.
Or, so it appears to Harrison.
"It's not just going to snap around and just come soon as September comes," Harrison said. "You got to go out there and play these preseason games like it's a real game, no matter how long you're in there. And I don't feel like we're doing that right now.
"We're going out there and getting our timing, getting our plays in and getting out. We're not playing or coming out with the same attitude we come out with in the regular season.
"You got to show something in the preseason. That's why we play the damn games."