The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 season is already at the quarter pole, and it is time to take a retrospective look at the team after four games. Breaking down the defense first, there are a lot of factors which need to be kept in the back of your mind when you think about your own grades for these units. Ultimately, it comes down to winning football games, and the Steelers defense has done just that in 3 out of their 4 contests to start the season. Also, injuries throughout the defense can certainly take a toll on the outcome.
Nonetheless, time to get out the red marker and evaluate these by position. Don't forget to place your vote in the poll below for your first quarter overall grade of Keith Butler's unit.
The defensive line hasn't been what many were hoping it would be in the first quarter of the season. When fans imagined Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward harassing opponents, they didn't think they would have to wait until Week 4 to finally see it. Nonetheless, the defensive line has done a great job stopping the run, and overall has been as good as advertised, with the scheme deployed early in the season not always helping them be as dynamic as many hoped.
This is usually the part of the report card where fans have a tough time giving the team any credit. They have surrendered a ridiculous amount of yards, and are again near the bottom of the barrel is most passing defense categories, but that isn't just on the cornerbacks. In my opinion, Ross Cockrell and William Gay are playing some really good football, throw in the rookies Sean Davis and Artie Burns and you can see the promise coming from this group. In my opinion, the cornerbacks are improved from 2015, despite what the numbers say.
Believe it or not, this has been a strength of the Steelers defense in the first quarter. Mike Mitchell is quietly having himself a really good season, and Robert Golden, who many thought would be a weakness, has turned into an extremely valuable part of the defensive secondary. Sometimes the best safeties are the ones who you don't hear about, and that would be true for the Steelers' duo in the back end. Would it be nice to see them creating some turnovers? Absolutely, but in the early portions of the season, they are playing great football.
Injuries, or should I say injury, continue to plague this group. Ryan Shazier simply cannot stay healthy for an extended period of time, and his injured knee was felt in the Week 3 loss to the Eagles. Nonetheless, Vince Williams has filled in nicely for Shazier, and the unit looks to keep improving and being a dynamic aspect of the team's defense.
This grade might seem a bit harsh, but it honestly isn't about the scheme, but the Steelers simply don't have the playmakers, outside of James Harrison, at the outside linebacker position. Jarvis Jones has his limitations, and those just happen to be as a pass rusher. When the team is relying on Anthony Chickillo, Harrison and Arthur Moats to put pressure on the quarterback, things aren't going to be pretty. The absence of Bud Dupree is noticeable.