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Speed on defense is becoming the 2019 Steelers strong suit

Defensive players are getting to the ball fast in training camp, and everyone is beginning to notice

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Training Camp Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In an article published on Wednesday, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler highlighted how the Steelers are using their speed on defense in order to hopefully make a jump in production for the 2019 season.

“Everybody can run,” Fowler quoted Steeler’s NT Javon Hargrave.

It’s no secret the Steelers have been targeting players on the defensive side of the ball based on their quickness and speed in which they play the game. Steelers’ 2019 first-round draft pick Devin Bush is believed to be one step in replacing the speed the team lost in 2017 with the injury to Ryan Shazier. The Steelers added another quick player in the first round of 2017 in safety Terrell Edmunds. In the 2018 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, Edmunds showed his burst during a 30-yard interception return.

Fowler noted the Steelers selected players early in the draft who can get to the football quickly.

“Just look at the past two first-round draft picks. Safety Terrell Edmunds is fairly big for his position at 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds but has range and open-field speed. Linebacker Devin Bush is fairly small for his position at 5-foot-11, 234 pounds but can cover just about every blade of grass on Sundays with quickness, angles and straight-line bolts.”

It’s no secret the Steelers have struggled to get key stops at the end of games in order to secure victory, Since the loss of Ryan Shazier, the Steelers have only made stops on defense 50% of the time in the final five minutes of regulation when tied or winning by no more than one score. Luckily the offense has bailed them out a few times in order to still pull off a victory, but the defense knows that it is their responsibility to close out games when they hold a fourth-quarter lead.

Fowler outlined the Steelers’ end-game woes over their last 17 contests.

“Then there are days when Pittsburgh can’t get a stop. Losing 45-42 in the 2018 divisional playoff against a pass-allergic Jacksonville offense was a low. The 2018 Steelers lost three games by three points apiece over the final five weeks of the season, and in each game they allowed a score in the final two minutes.”

It’s very rare in today’s NFL for defenses to completely shut down a team to close out a game consistently over the course of a season. Back the glory days for the Steelers’ defense in the 1970s, the team rarely surrendered a fourth-quarter lead. From 1970-79, the Steelers averaged only 4.1 points given up in the fourth quarter, led by the 1974 team who only surrendered 2.1 points per game. In 2018, the Steelers averaged 7.7 points surrendered in the final period, their worst since 2009.

While trying to bring back the defensive prowess associated with the Steel Curtain, Fowler noted the Steelers are attempting to embrace both past and present philosophies.

“The Steelers still cling to traditional pillars such as stopping the run on early downs and all 11 men to the ball, but they also believe in hybrid weapons and personnel packages galore and speed everywhere.”

Regardless the times players clock in various speed drills, the 2019 Steelers’ defense is in desperate need of play makers. If increased speed within their lineup with help the Steelers to generate more turnovers- a statistic they desperately need to improve, then the 2019 Steelers may be taking a step in the right direction in order to return to the playoffs

Jeremy Fowler’s full article can be viewed here: