The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known for their defense. Whether you go back to the Steel Curtain of the 1970s, Blitzburgh of the 1990s or even the dominant force of the early 2000s.
The Steelers have always been synonymous with defense.
The same rings true for this 2020 unit who is wrapping up their unique Training Camp at Heinz Field and preparing for the challenges of the regular season. The one constant for the Steelers entering this season will be their defense. Already a formidable force in 2019, could they be even better in 2020?
When you think about the logistics, it is hard to think they wouldn’t take another step forward this year.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was acquired prior to the Week 3 game vs. the 49ers last year, will have almost a full season, and a complete offseason, under his belt with his new team.
Steven Nelson will have a full year with the team after being signed as a free agent acquisition.
T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and plenty others are returning and ready to set new heights for this unit.
How good can they be? During a Zoom call on Friday, safety Terrell Edmunds put some pretty lofty goals on this group.
This per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com:
'There really is no ceiling. We can do anything we set our minds to. I can put the statement out there, we are the best defense out there.' - @rell_island6— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) September 4, 2020
Edmunds went on to talk about how the team’s cornerbacks, mainly Nelson and Joe Haden, are the reason why the safeties are able to play a more relaxed brand of football. Knowing they have things locked down on the outside, it puts less stress on the players responsible for the deep half of the field.
When it comes to Edmunds individually, there has been plenty of criticism of him since being drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The biggest knock on Edmunds has been his inability to get his hands on the football. As in, even bat down a pass or two. Edmunds realizes these narratives exist for a reason, and he is determined to turn things around in 2020.
'It's like the old saying, 'you just have to catch the ones that come to you.'' - @rell_island6 on creating more turnovers this year— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) September 4, 2020
When it comes to turnovers, specifically interceptions, the Steelers made a huge jump in 2019. Tallying 20 interceptions, 15 of which came from players in the secondary, the Steelers reached the mark for the first time since 2010. But what was truly impressive was the improvement from the previous season when they only managed 8 which was a franchise low going all the way back to 1940. It was the first time the Steelers’ defense saw a double-digit increase in interceptions (excluding coming off of the strike-shortened season of 1983) since they increased for 17 to 28 from 1971 to 1972.
While another double-digit increase in interceptions for 2020 seems to be a bit much, especially since the Steelers haven’t seen interceptions numbering in the 30s since 1984, any increase from last season would be welcomed.
Will the defense live up to the hype in 2020? Will they take the necessary steps forward to making this one of the best defense in the Mike Tomlin era? A lot needs to take place before that comes to fruition, but Edmunds isn’t shying away from those type of claims either.
Time will tell how this unit meshes in 2020, but in the meantime make sure you follow BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they wrap up training camp and prepare for the New York Giants in Week 1.