In the second half of the Steelers Week 1 victory over Cleveland, the defense yielded 265 yards and 24 points in a mere 11:34 of game action against an offense led by quarterback Brian Hoyer and missing all-world receiver Josh Gordon, who had been suspended for the 2014 season for violating the NFL's drug policy.
It was just a fluke, right? After all, Pittsburgh's defense included some new parts, namely Ryan Shazier, a rookie linebacker starting his first NFL game; and Mike Mitchell and Cam Thomas, off-season, free-agent signings starting for the first time as members of the Black and Gold.
Unfortunately for the Steelers defense, this kind of binge-scoring by opponents has become more common as of late, and it all started in Week 9 of last season in the record-setting 55-31 loss at New England on November 3. Obviously, given the score, it was a bad day for the defense no matter how you slice it. But of the record 55 points and 610 yards the defense allowed, 28 and 216 came in the fourth quarter. And the real kicker was the Patriots needed only 14 plays and 6:44 in game time to put up those numbers.
Just two weeks later, in the Steelers 37-27 victory over Detroit at Heinz Field on November 17, the defense yielded an incredible 321 yards and 27 points in the second quarter, as the Lions possessed the football for 32 plays and 10:55 of game time.
All in all, we're talking three alarming instances where the defense looked helpless and incapable of stopping its opponent, and these occurred during the span of 10 regular-season games dating back to early November of a season ago.
What does it all mean? It probably means Dick LeBeau's once-intimidating defense no longer is, and teams are now regularly finding ways to exploit it like they never were able to during the unit's heyday of the previous decade.
They say the best way to stop a bully is by smacking them in the mouth, and it looks like Pittsburgh's opponents have now found many openings for delivering decisive blows, and they probably won't stop until the defense finds a way to get its mojo back.
In the mid-80s, former Steelers legendary defensive end, the late Dwight "Mad Dog" White, once described the defense of his former team as "soft and cheesy."
It has been awhile since we've heard from more-recent Steelers' defensive stalwarts such as Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith, but it would be wise not to ask them about the current state of affairs at it pertains to their old team's defensive abilities.
They might not be as complimentary as Mad Dog was in the 80s.