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Steelers defense highest ranked among AFC North teams

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Despite allowing five touchdown passes in their loss to New Orleans Sunday, the Steelers defense remains the highest ranked unit in the AFC North.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers defense is the highest ranked unit in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh's defense is ranked No.12 overall in the NFL, four spots ahead of Baltimore, six up on Cleveland, and nine spots better than the Bengals, who currently sit No.21 among NFL defenses.

This stat tells me three things. First, the Steelers' defense might not be as bad as everyone is stating. Second, the defenses in the AFC North are not very good. And third, statistics really don't tell the whole story (which most sports fans already know, but I digress).

Pittsburgh's pass-defense is smack dab in the middle of the NFL standings at No.16, averaging 242 pass yards per game (for a 62-percent completion mark) with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Its rush defense is better at No.12, after allowing an average of about 106 yards rushing per game while allowing eight touchdowns on the ground. While No.12 isn't bad, their 4.4 yards-per-carry average allowed is tied for the seventh-worst in the NFL. Conversely, Baltimore's rush-defense is fifth-best in the NFL with an average of just 3.6 yards-per-carry allowed.

The Steelers will face Cincinnati, currently leading the AFC North by 1.5 games, two times in the season's final four games, including the upcoming meeting in Cincinnati this Sunday. While their overall defensive ranking is well below Pittsburgh's, the Bengals' pass-defense is better at No.14, allowing only 11 touchdown passes versus snagging 12 interceptions thus far. The Bengals' run-defense, however, is one of the worst in the NFL, ranking No.25 and allowing an average of more than 125 rushing yards per game (for a 4.2-yards-per-carry average). Hopefully, the Steelers take advantage of this and prescribe a steady diet of carries for Le'Veon Bell.

The worst defensive statistic associated with the Steelers is points allowed. Pittsburgh's 298 points allowed is the most in the AFC North and fifth-most in the AFC. This is a statistic that obviously must be improved on if the Steelers are to make a run in this final quarter of the NFL regular season. But remember, statistics don't tell the whole story of a defense.