The Pittsburgh Steelers defense used to have several narratives which followed them around when Keith Butler took over for Dick LeBeau as the team’s defensive coordinator. One of those narratives was the team’s knack for surrendering the big play. It absolutely seemed several times a game the defense would give up that back-breaking play which often turned the tide in the game.
But is that trend changing in 2019? The statistics suggest it is.
According to NFL Matchup on ESPN’s verified Twitter account, the Steelers have the 7th best defense when it comes to giving up the big play. Check out the diagram below:
These teams have given up the least amount of "explosive plays" on defense so far this season. Will the @steelers remain on this list after tonight?#GoNiners #LARams #BroncosCountry #GoPats #Bears100 #GoBills #HereWeGo #Skol #DallasCowboys #Titans @gregcosell | @MattBowen41 pic.twitter.com/4rLHUu58qj— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) October 28, 2019
According to NFL Matchup, they consider a ‘big play’ a run of 15 or more yards, or a pass of 20 yards or more. When it comes to this, the Steelers have surrendered 27 big plays throughout the early stages of the 2019 regular season.
What might be the most noticeable difference in this current Steelers defense is their frustrating inability to get off the field on 3rd downs in obvious passing situations. Even in the Week 8 win over the Miami Dolphins the Steelers gave up 3rd down conversions of 11 and 15 yards on separate occasions.
The Pittsburgh defense has made significant strides in many ways throughout this season, but they are far from perfect. On top of surrendering the lengthy third down conversion, the defense has struggled tackling and stopping the run consistently.
However, being an eternal optimist, I choose to always think about the positives in almost every situation. The Steelers’ ability to sack the quarterback and take the football away have been a near record paces. The team has already tallied 19 takeaways through 7 games, they were only able to get 15 in all of 2018. On top of takeaways they have registered 24 sacks, on pace to register 50 sacks for the third straight season.
The Steelers’ defense is a work-in-progress, but you take the good with the bad, and hope those bad slowly become good. Let’s hope this is happening as of right now. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field in Week 9.