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Pittsburgh Steelers defense top priority still stopping the run

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Despite the constant criticism surrounding the Steelers secondary, the team remains focused on their top priority - stopping the run.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL last season. They ranked 27th in the NFL allowing 253 yards a game and watched opponents abandon running the ball to simply throw their way to offensive success. The team selected three defensive backs in the 2015 NFL Draft by taking Senquez Golson in the second round, Doran Grant in the fourth round and Gerod Holliman in the seventh round.

With those statistics and the draft class the organization acquired this offseason, one would think the team's defensive philosophy heading into 2015 would be to limit opponent's damage through the air. However, nothing could be further from the truth as the team prepares for stopping the run as their top priority in 2015.

"It's not always about sacking the quarterback, but it's about stopping the run," Steve McLendon told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We have to hold each other accountable for doing that."

Some might read this and shake their head in disgust, but McLendon is referring to making an opponent one-dimensional by taking away the run. McLendon will be a large part of the team's success in regards to accomplishing the task at hand in stopping the run, but for this success to take place it will require more than just one player doing their job.

"The thing is about showing up every day," McLendon said. "That's what it boils down to." "We are flying to the ball. We are going to be in better shape this year, so we can run to the ball. If we're in better shape physically and mentally, we're going to be a better team."

Compared to their 27th ranking against the pass in 2014, the Steelers defense ranked 6th in the league against the run allowing 100.3 yards per game; however, don't let the statistics fool you, the Steelers were hardly dominant in any defensive category last season.

The Steelers goal of taking away the opponent's running game has been their top priority for over a decade, and will continue under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler, as it was under Dick LeBeau in his time with the team. If the Steelers' front seven can stymie the run, it will go a long way towards not only improving the overall defense, but even helping the porous secondary by putting them in obvious passing situations and bettering their chances of success.

As is always said across the league, "It all starts with stopping the run.", and the same can be said about the 2015 Steelers defense.