Steelers 2015 Success Rests On Defensive Front Three


The Steelers have certainly become younger on defense over the last two seasons. They will need to bank on that youth in 2015.

You might even say that their entire season rests on the youngsters who make up the front-three on defense.

Cameron Heyward is the veteran and leader of the front line. The soon to be 26 year old will be entering his 5th season with the Steelers, and is looking to build what became a bit of a breakout for him in 2014.

Heyward posted 7.5 sacks last season – two more than he had in 2013 when he started to come into his own on the line.

But it was more than his increase of QB sacks that gave fans and pundits notice. It was his passion and leadership that made him a cut above the rest of the defense last season.

You want a Pittsburgh Steeler? That young man right there is the epitome of what it is to be a Steeler.

The defense and the defensive line will need him to continue to ‘show the way’ as the core becomes younger with returning young players and incoming rookies.

Stephon Tuitt is on the other side of the front-three. The Steelers said their final FINAL goodbyes to Brett Keisel. The Beard will always have a place in our hearts, but it is time for Tuitt to step in and step up.

ESPN strangely enough thinks he will and named him one of their eight Second Year Breakout Players. Tuitt can be another Keisel in that he won’t be glorified on the stat sheet, but be extremely effective at eating up blockers.

As noted in ESPN’s article it is critically important that Tuitt control the point of attack to allow the linebackers to roam and find the ball without being interfered by offensive linemen advancing into the second level.

Jun 17, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt (90) participates in drills during minicamp at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tuitt is up for the job, and there will be no more of this sharing snaps with the god awful Cam Thomas. He’ll be a three down lineman.

The Steelers will need him to control that point of attack in rushing plays and penetrate enough on the pass rush to help quickly collapse the pocket for the linebackers to finish up the job.

This leaves us with the anchor of the line. I like me some Steve McLendon don’t get me wrong. But, I really feel that if this defense and this team are going to collect 10 wins or better this season that path runs right through Daniel McCullers.

The young man is a gargantuan of one and displayed that on several occasions last season when he moved the center back into the pocket after the snap of the football.

If McCullers can do that on a consistent basis, and the Steelers will need him to, then we are looking at the days of when Casey Hampton was back in his prime. Big Dan can make Big Snack a distant but pleasant memory for Steeler Nation. They need him to be making the plays, not McLendon.

I’m not trying to argue that everything about this defense centers on the NT position. However, if the keystone of the front line cannot eat up blockers or apply penetration, it will make the work more difficult for the edge rushers or inside guys running stunts…

… which then means more time for the QB to find an open receiver…

…. which means relying on that :gulp: secondary to stay with their man longer.

You get the idea.

Yes, make no mistake. This will be a very telling season for the Steelers defense – where that ceiling is and if they can realistically reach it.

The offense is explosive, but it’s the defense and the young front-three who will need help get this team to not only division winning but to deep within the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl.

Next: Steelers Mock Draft Version 16.0

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