be behind the eight ball

be behind the eight ball

  (American & Australian informal)
to be in a difficult situation and unable to make progress
Usage notes: In a game of pool (= a game in which you hit numbered balls into holes around a table), if you are behind the black, number eight ball you are in a difficult position to take your next turn.
The police are very much behind the eight ball - they've had no more leads on these burglaries.
See also: ball, behind, eight