With one of the most explosive offenses in the league, the defense has continuously held the Steelers back over the last couple of years. Will that change in 2016?
No one can deny that the Steelers offense is one of the best in the league, if not the best. With an elite veteran quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and a variety of young top weapons, they’ve been almost unstoppable over the last couple of seasons.
The problem has been the defense. The defense has shown improvements with new defensive coordinator Keith Butler at the helm, but it’s still not nearly where it needs to be.
Luckily for Pittsburgh, the defense is filled with young talent budding with potential. These younger players, such as linebacker Ryan Shazier and defensive end Stephon Tuitt, have showed true flashes of excellence, and could be tasked with leading a new generation of defenders, and hopefully a better one than we’ve grown accustomed to over the past few years.
Don’t get me wrong, there have definitely been improvements. The Steelers defensive line has actually played very well last year. They ranked 5th in the league in total sacks, and did a fair job at stopping the run, ranked 6th in the league in average yards per rushing attempt allowed.
The secondary of the Pittsburgh defense has been a problem for years, and it was a huge problem last year. Some people thought the acquirement of cornerback Brandon Boykin early in the season would help, but he got very little playing time.
The Steelers secondary ranked 30th in the league in passing yards allowed, and simply couldn’t stop opposing quarterbacks all year long. There actually were positive though. The defense ranked 6th in the league when it came to interceptions, and Head Coach Mike Tomlin has made turnovers an emphasis, and they surely are game changers.
Despite the clear issues in the Steelers secondary, there is plenty to look forward to.
If the Steelers are able to retain cornerbacks William Gay and Brandon Boykin, and possibly sign a safety or cornerback of sorts with the little bit of cap space they’ll have, they’ll be in good shape to make their final improvements during the draft.
Art Rooney II, President and Co-Owner of the Steelers, has made it clear that he expects the Steelers to pursue improvements for the secondary, which seems like a good sign that they may make some sort of move in the right direction this offseason.
Stephon Tuitt, in a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, stated that “We see the future looking very bright. You see what we can do. I personally believe we can be the No. 1 defense in the run and the pass and we’re going to do it.”
After watching Tuitt himself and Cameron Heyward become a great pass rushing duo, as well as the emergence of Ryan Shazier throughout the season as an amazing partner to Lawrence Timmons, there’s no telling the potential of this group of defenders.
The news that James Harrison will be returning for yet another year is huge. With that, the linebacking core will remain stacked and one of the best in the league.
In the end, it really all rests in the hands of the secondary, and what additions are made throughout the offseason in order to boast that group of defenders.
At this moment in time, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is a total mystery, and a lot of things are totally up in the air at this point. All we know is that the defense is loaded with potential, and if they can play like Tuitt believes they can play, this Steelers team may become nothing short of unstoppable.