The Pittsburgh Steelers have historically been known for their stout defense. That standard holds true to this day, but the 2022 unit left a lot to be desired. When you hear the statistic that the Steelers one-time vaunted rush defense finished dead last in the league in terms of yards per game surrendered, it almost makes you do a double-take.
While almost anyone who follows the NFL, or watched the Steelers last season, saw them take a huge step backwards, can fans expect a bounce back in 2022?
There are a lot of question marks lingering on the defensive side of the football, but if some of those questions can be answered in a positive way there is hope for this unit to find some level of competency this season.
The first question, especially when it comes to the rush defense, is the future of Stephon Tuitt. If Tuitt is able to return, and play well, it would go a long way to helping the run defense become a near Top 10 unit once again. Outside of Tuitt, will the combination of Devin Bush and Myles Jack work, or look more like Bush and Joe Schobert in 2021? The secondary is also an area where the loss of Joe Haden leaves the team without a pure No. 1 cornerback, not to suggest Haden played at that level in 2021.
Personnel aside, the Steelers defense also ushers in a new era with Teryl Austin as the defensive coordinator. Austin, combined with Brian Flores, could have some fresh insights on what the defense should do/look like, and this could certainly be different from what fans were accustomed to seeing in the Keith Butler defense.
While there are a lot of questions remaining on the team’s defense, if they can get Tuitt back, the secondary is able to gel and the Austin/Flores defense flourishes, a bounce back this year isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
In fact, that is exactly what Jared Dubin of CBS Sports suggested when ranking the NFL’s defenses. In the article every NFL defense was put into one of five categories. Check out the categories below:
- Very Unlikely
- Somewhat Unlikely
- Somewhat Likely
- Most Likely
As for the Steelers defense, they were put in the ‘Somewhat Likely’ category, along with several other teams. Check out who made that list, and what they had to say about the Steelers defense and why they could see a reasonable resurgence in 2022.
Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Steelers and Bucs both have top-notch talent and there’s not much question about them having above-average defenses. Only Todd Bowles adding responsibilities as head coach and the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul kept Tampa out of the top group, while age and injury issues up front for Pittsburgh are the culprit. Still, two excellent defenses that should be among the best.
If you are like me, you are wondering which team was in the top tier of ‘Most Likely’ to have a Top 10 defense in 2022. Here are the three teams who fell into that category:
Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints
The questions surrounding the Steelers’ 2022 defense are real, but it isn’t as if the sky is falling. If Tyson Alualu remains healthy, and Tuitt is able to return, the rush defense should be expected to at least be a middle-of-the-road unit. This would be a big improvement from 32nd in the league last season. Throw in the fact Montravius Adams and Ahkello Witherspoon will have a full offseason with the team, and the optimists will find plenty to be positive about.
What do you think? Do you see the Steelers defense taking a step forward, or does another dismal season in the run game await? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they enter Phase 3 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.