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Joe Haden suggests the 2021 Steelers defense could be better than the 2020 version

Could the 2021 Steelers defense be even better than last year’s group?

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been fantastic since the 2019 season when they acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins. Fitzpatrick was a missing piece to the puzzle which completed the team’s defense.

They already had talent on the roster with T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Bud Dupree and others, but Fitzpatrick made the secondary an issue for the opposition. In 2020 the Steelers led the NFL in many statistical categories, and were largely considered a Top 5 defense out of the NFL’s 32 organizations.

It may seem crazy, but could this 2021 defense be even better than the 2020 version? Joe Haden doesn’t think it’s that crazy.

“I think we have if not the same, a little better defense than we had last year,” Haden told the media. “Everybody just has to play their role, play their part, and make plays.”

This got me thinking. Could this defense, on paper, be better? Let’s first take a look at the players lost and gained from 2020 to 2021.

Players Lost:
OLB Bud Dupree
CB Mike Hilton
CB Steven Nelson
ILB Vince Williams
ILB Avery Williamson
S Sean Davis
OLB Ola Adeniyi

Replacements/Players Gained:
OLB Melvin Ingram
CB Cam Sutton
DB Tre Norwood *
CB James Pierre
ILB Devin Bush +
ILB Joe Schobert
OLB Quincy Roche *
OLB Jamir Jones
*- Rookie
+- Returning from injury

On paper, you can see how the Steelers’ defense could be considered better heading into the 2021 regular season. Some might suggest a combination of Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram is an upgrade over Dupree. Others might also consider the emergence of James Pierre, combined with the retention of Cam Sutton, to mask the loss of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson. Having Devin Bush and Joe Schobert with Robert Spillane as a reserve should also be a big upgrade over the Spillane/Williams/Williamson combo depending on who was healthy enough to play at inside linebacker.

If the 2021 Steelers defense can be even as good as last season, something Haden suggested, they will be a very good unit. On top of being very good, they will put the Steelers in position to win every week. That doesn’t mean they will win every week, but they very rarely will be considered out of a game due to the physicality and overall play on the defensive side of the ball.

But what do you think? Do you think the Steelers’ defense in 2021 will be better than the 2020 version? Or are those just lofty expectations? Let us know your thoughts in the poll below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.


Will the Steelers 2021 defense be better than the 2020 defense?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    (522 votes)
  • 37%
    About the same
    (345 votes)
  • 6%
    No way they will be that good
    (57 votes)
924 votes total Vote Now