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A Letter From The Editor: The age-old debate of pass rush vs. secondary dominance

The Pittsburgh Steelers approach the 2019 NFL Draft wondering the answer to this age-old debate.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

All 32 NFL teams are preparing for the 2019 NFL Draft this Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee. Team needs are debated, big boards are evaluated and the selection process begins with fans and executives alike waiting to see the next name which will fly off the board.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers the desire of many fans is to secure the team’s secondary. Finding a group of defensive backs who can blanket the opposition has long been a want of the black-and-gold fan base dating back to Bill Cowher’s days in the Steel City.

When you think about it, when was the last time the Steelers deployed a formidable secondary?

When Rod Woodson and Carnell Lake were on the roster?

Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott? Ha. No.

Ike Taylor and Deshae Townsend? Maybe, but no.

Artie Burns and Coty Sensabaugh? Again. No.

I think most would agree Joe Haden, although advancing in age, would fall under the category of a sufficient cornerback. But will newly acquired Steven Nelson be the ying to Haden’s yang? Will he complete the picture? Or will the team need to continue to identify the secondary as a weakness?

The draft can solve a lot, but it doesn’t always answer those philosophical debates in the football realm.

For instance, what benefits a defense more? A dominant pass rush, or a blanketing secondary?

I brought this up on our latest Steelers Preview podcast (you can listen to it HERE), and it truly is a chicken vs. egg debate. You know, the “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?”

In other words, everyone will take one side or the other, but it doesn’t make one side of the debate right or wrong.

All I know is the Steelers have either led the NFL in sacks or come in second the past two seasons, and has the defense been complete? Has the defense been as dominant as fans hope it could be?

I know for a fact the solution to getting the defense back to form is not just adding a cornerback, or safety for that matter, but to have a more complete group. Think back to those early 2000s defenses. Did they have dominant cornerbacks? No. Ike Taylor was great, but wasn’t considered elite. Opposite him were players like Deshea Townsend, Bryant McFadden and William Gay. Was the pass rush considered the best in the league? James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley certainly did some damage, but the defense was dominant in the most important areas. Areas like red-zone defense, run defense and forcing teams to play their game, not the other way around.

Fans will debate the pass rush vs. secondary argument for years to come, but as the 2019 NFL Draft approaches, I can’t help but wonder what this defense needs to really make it complete. As you noticed in this article I have gone back and forth only to find myself standing atop the fence refusing to take a side.

What say you? What is more needed/beneficial for the 2019 Steelers defense? Pass rush or secondary? Let us know in the poll below, and be sure to explain yourself in the comment section!


Which is more necessary for the Steelers in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    (368 votes)
  • 35%
    Pass Rush
    (204 votes)
572 votes total Vote Now