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Steelers Report Card: Grading Pittsburgh’s defense through the second quarter of 2018

BTSC grades the Steelers’ defense after the first eight games of 2018.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The first quarter of the Steelers’ 2018 season was dreadful, terrible and nauseating at best. Thankfully the second quarter yielded a perfect record to top the 1-2-1 start. So as I am tasked to break out the red pen and evaluate the season’s second quarter, I no longer do it from the ledge.

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 defense for the 2018 season’s second quarter:


In the first quarter of the 2018 season, the Steelers’ defense was ranked 30th in the league in total yards allowed (421 ypg) and 26th with a 29-points per game (ppg) average through four contests. This unit was 29th against the pass (304.75 pypg) and tied for 22nd against the run (115.8 rypg). It was one of the worst starts on defense ever in the Steel City.

Now at the season’s halfway point, vast improvement has been observed. the Steelers’ defense is currently ranked 12th in the league in total yards allowed (347.9 ypg), aided by giving up only 275.3 ypg in games 5-8. Keith Butler’s crew is 15th by allowing a 23.5 ppg average and a mere 18.5 ppg through the last four contests. The pass defense is ranked 21st against the pass (257.6 pypg) and 6th against the run (90.3 rypg). The incredible improvement occurred due to only allowing opposing passers 210.5 pypg and enemy runners 64.75 rypg on average over the last four games.

The scheme was terrible and outdated. Myself and many in Steeler Nation were calling for a new coordinator and Mike Tomlin excusing himself from coaching the defense as well. But the results have been absolutely astounding.

The defensive line was subpar with a lack of pressure up front is giving quarterbacks plenty of time to pick apart the secondary. The defensive line of Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt and a subbing Tyson Alualu and Dan McCullers has rebounded. Especially Tuitt, who went from zero to three sacks in the last three games.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The middle of the field can still be a feeding frenzy for QBs and TEs. Although Ryan Shazier’s absence is glaring still...Jon Bostic, Vince Williams and L.J. Fort are patrolling much better and playing more solid ball.

The OLBs of T.J. Watt (7 sacks) and Alvin “Bud” Dupree (3.5 sacks) have 10.5 sacks combined. Watt has been solid, but gets his sacks in clumps. Bud still overruns quarterbacks, but has been coming along very well in the last four games.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The secondary is no longer an absolute mess, but it’s still untidy. The guys who have help shore up this unit are CB Joe Haden, Mike Hilton and S Sean Davis. These guys have performed the best for Tom Bradley’s unit and are the reason for the sudden resurgence. Morgan Burnett’s absence has led to more Terrell Edmunds, who has struggled as a rookie, but is improving every week. Burnett is back and his presence should strengthen the secondary. Coty Sensabaugh and Cam Sutton have been overmatched on the corners, but both are improving, especially the new starter Sensabaugh. Artie Burns has regressed to the point, I worry for his employment. The secondary has only four interceptions all season and that needs to be remedied.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Defensive Valedictorian:

Joe Haden and Mike Hilton

Overall Offense Grade: B-


What overall grade would you give the Steelers defense for their performance in the second quarter of the 2018 season?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    (42 votes)
  • 56%
    (289 votes)
  • 33%
    (171 votes)
  • 1%
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    (3 votes)
511 votes total Vote Now