While fielding questions from reporters in a video interview for Steelers.com, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked the question regarding the correlation between the amount of pressure from the front seven and how that factors into the efficiency of the secondary. His response was simple and concise, "You know, rush and coverage works together."
What he means by that is simple. You don't need a Deion Sanders type cornerback if you can get to the quarterback. Fans often point to the lack of interceptions, lack of shut down corners and even the lack of a general pass defense as an Achilles' heal for the team. Where do these issues stem from? A lack of pressure on the passer.
The Steelers simply struggled to get to the quarterback in 2013. Last year they ranked 12th in the NFL in terms of team sack totals with 34 sacks on the season. That is not where a Dick LeBeau defense normally ranks amongst the NFL defenses.
Is there a correlation between the lack of sacks and the drop off in overall defense. No doubt there is. When the Steelers were a historically top 5 defense, they always had those bookend linebackers that were getting after the quarterback at an alarming rate.
Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison were the main keys in the outside linebacker role for the Steelers since the 2005 Super Bowl XL victory.
The task now falls on players like Jarvis Joes, Jason Worilds, Cam Heyward and Lawrence Timmons to apply the pressure necessary to help improve the secondary that was downright porous last season.
As fans, remember that just as Tomlin said, pressure and coverage work hand in hand.