As I’ve stated all along, I’m not a football coach or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. Each week of the 2018 exhibition and regular season, I’ve graded the efforts of the Black-and-gold via “the eye test”. Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what count the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well. So you, the reader, get to vote as well. You even get to grade the grader in the comments section.
So let’s take a look at BTSC’s perceptions of the season’s first quarter defense:
The Steelers’ defense is ranked 30th in the league in total yarda allowed and 26th with a 29-points per game (ppg) average through four contests. This unit is 29th against the pass and tied for 22nd against the run. It may be the worst start on defense ever.
Despite the first half explosion against Tampa in Week 3, Keith Butler’s crew has imploded in a blaze of mediocrity. Mediocrity is actually too kind. While there may never truly have been a good solution available, the organization never fully found a way to recover from the loss of Ryan Shazier to the lineup. But the scheme is terrible and outdated. It starts with starting from scratch on paper. It also starts with a new coordinator and Mike Tomlin excusing himself from coaching the defense as well.
The defensive line seemed like it was going to be the strength of the unit. But the lack of pressure up front is giving quarterbacks plenty of time to pick apart the secondary. With pressure against Tampa, the defense looked a lot better. However the scheme is not allowing these guys the leeway to rush and also keeping a healthy Cam Heyward on the sidelines in favor of Tyson Alualu in a lot of situations is poor use of personnel. The Steelers have only four sacks from the defensive line, Stephon Tuitt has zero.
T.J. Watt exploded out of the gate in Week One with three sacks, but has been virtually nonexistent since. Bud Dupree has three as well and a pick six, but he still has a tendency to overrun the quarterback. Vince Williams, who is now injured, has been stable with 29 tackles. But the most consistent play from the linebacking unit has been from the newcomer, Jon Bostic, with 30 tackles and two sacks. Still the middle of the field has been a feeding frenzy for QBs and TEs.
The secondary is still an absolute mess. I’m not even sure of the solution. The positives have been CB Joe Haden, Mike Hilton and S Sean Davis. Though not perfect so far, these guys have performed the best for Tom Bradley’s unit. Had Haden been available against KC and Hilton against Bmore, the secondary could have fared better. Morgan Burnett’s absence has led to more Terrell Edmunds, who has struggled as a rookie. Artie Burns, Coty Sensabaugh and Cam Sutton are overmatched on the corners as well. The secondary has only three interceptions all season. I don’t have any answers, but by the looks of the scheming...neither do the coaches.
Joe Haden and Jon Bostic
Overall Offense Grade: D-
What overall grade do you give the Pittsburgh Steelers defense through the first quarter of the NFL season.
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