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Mike Mitchell on 2017 Steelers defense: “If we aren’t No. 1, we aren’t good enough.”

The 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers will likely go as far as their defense will take them. With that said, the defense is setting their goals sky-high before the new season begins.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t a secret anymore who carries the Pittsburgh Steelers team to success, and that is the team’s dynamic offense. Quite the 180-degree turnaround from the success the team saw in the early 2000s when they were anchored by one of the all-time best defenses in NFL history.

However, as was evident in 2016, the Steelers can’t get to the promised land, ending in another Super Bowl victory, without a defense who can keep the opposition at bay, even some of the time.

Most fans would agree the team can be successful with a middle-of-the-road defense, but the 2017 Steelers defenders are aiming a lot higher than that. In fact, Mike Mitchell told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “If we’re not No. 1, we’re not good enough.”

Mitchell isn’t the only one with lofty aspirations for the 2017 defense.

“We’re going to be a good defense this year,” linebacker Bud Dupree said. “We plan on being great.”

Nonetheless, not all of the players were singing such an optimistic tune, rather relying on realism to keep them grounded as the new year begins.

“We have a defense that can accomplish a lot, but if we don’t put it on the field, it doesn’t count for anything,” Cam Heyward said.

It isn’t just the players who are expecting a lot, but also the coaching staff. Keith Butler had this to say about expectations for the 2017 season.

“Our young guys are going to have to help us in that regard in terms of our draft choices and the guys who played well for us last year,” Butler said. “The rookies last year got to continue to develop. And if they do, hopefully we’ll improve enough to take that next step.”

It will take a mixture of young and old to truly be successful, but despite the youth movement coming to fruition in the Steel City, the standard is the standard for the group as they attempt to re-gain the typical form of a Pittsburgh Steelers defense.

For some, it is all about progression.

“I think it’s all about just taking steps forward,” Heyward said. “I think a lot of guys progressed and I think we just have to continue to do that.”

If they can, they will be more than good enough to help the Steelers attain the ultimate goal in 2017.