The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is not what it used to be. No longer a dominant force which imposed its will on the opponent, the team seems to have more of a reactionary approach to the defensive side of the football.
To watch this has been frustrating for everyone invested in the black-and-gold, and for some the issues have been so problematic they declared the team’s defense should be completely re-worked.
A total rebuild.
While giving up 45 points to the Jaguars in the Divisional round last season was bad, let’s not lose track of reality. Do the Steelers have big holes to fill on the defense? Absolutely. Do they still have a lot of talent on defense capable of being a unit more than capable of winning? No doubt.
When you have players like Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Joe Haden and T.J. Watt (who I believe is only going to improve) the defense just needs to patch the holes and be on their way.
Onward and Upward.
Some will suggest this is easier said than done, and I understand this, but I also understand the team could make a few key moves to help solidify the defensive side of the football.
First, rectify the situation at inside linebacker. A free agent acquisition and a high draft pick will certainly be necessary. Next, figuring out the safety position will also be something which needs adjusted. Whether they keep Mike Mitchell or not, there should be some additions at safety both in the draft, and free agency. Lastly, figure out the front-7. The outside linebackers are dropping into coverage more and more, leaving the front four to get to the quarterback. If that is the case, the need for those dominant outside pass rushers becomes less and less important. If Bud Dupree is athletic enough to fulfill the new obligations of an outside linebacker in Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin’s scheme, then keep him for his 5th year option.
Reading through the last paragraph, combined with what is still fresh in everyone’s minds the last time this unit took the field, can have some preparing to push the panic button. I just don’t see it that way. This defense recorded 56 sacks, a new franchise record, and I don’t care who they played while doing so. They also showed they are capable of putting a winning product on the field, just were ridiculously inconsistent in the process.
You may call for a rebuild of the defense, but I don’t agree with this sentiment. Fill the necessary holes and this defense could be well on their way.