The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten younger and faster on the defensive side of the ball, but have they gotten better as an overall defense has yet to be seen.
Sure, Ryan Shazier dazzled viewers with 9 tackles on the defensive side of the ball, 2 special teams tackles and and interception in his rookie debut. All of which happened in just a quarter and a half of playing time, but if you look at the whole picture of the Steelers' defense, you have to ask if they will be a better overall unit in 2014.
In two preseason games, the Steelers starting defense has been mediocre at best. There have been some improvements, and there have been the same issues that plagued this defensive group throughout the 2013 season.
In the brief time the starters saw the field against the New York Giants, the defense surrendered a 73-yard touchdown to Rashard Jennings, and although the defense stymied the Giants' passing attack that one run left a very sour taste in fans' mouths.
Against the Buffalo Bills it wasn't the big play, but the 'bend but don't break' defense that showed up and allowed the Bills to possess the ball for nearly 12 minutes in their first three drives, although only resulting in two field goals.
In 2013, it was the defense allowing an average of 115 yards per game on the ground, and giving up the big play that plagued this team. That is the exact reason why the Philadelphia Eagles are the perfect opponent for the Steelers' third preseason game.
The Eagles, led by LeSean McCoy, topped the NFL in terms of rushing yards per game in 2013 with 160 yards per game. When the Steelers gave up their fair share of rushing yards in 2013, this will be a true test of whether or not the Steelers' defense has improved in run stopping, or simply added speed to a unit that is still flawed.
If the rushing attack of the Eagles' offense isn't enough to make fans wring their hands, their passing attack is formidable as well. In 2013 the Eagles offense ranked 9th in the NFL throwing for an average of 256 yards through the air per game. Nick Foles, the starting quarterback for the Eagles, is extremely efficient and rarely makes the mistake that can break a team's back.
Take the rushing attack, the efficient passing game and the speed of which the Chip Kelly offense is ran, and that equates to the perfect test for the Steelers defense in the final dress rehearsal before the Cleveland Browns come to town in the first week of regular season play.