The Steelers have the most expensive defense in the NFL this season. Here is how it can be the anchor for a playoff berth.
The Steelers have always been a proponent of the idea that defense wins championships. Whether we are talking about the Steel Curtain defenses of the ’70s or the Dick LeBeau-led units of the 2000s, Pittsburgh has always prioritized building their team with a defensive focus.
This season will be no different, with the most expensive defense in the NFL according to Spotrac. A large portion of that money is going to the dynamic duo of T.J. Watt and Cam Hayward, and even more money against the cap is coming in the future after the Minkah Fitzpatrick extension.
More expensive doesn’t always mean better but in the Steelers case, it’s hard to argue with the unit they have put together. The question is whether it will be enough to carry a very young offense to the playoffs.
Steelers defense hopes to recreate 2019 magic
The last time the Steelers defense was this talented across the board was in 2019 when the big trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick was executed. They forced more turnovers than any defense in the league that season, carrying an offense piloted mostly by Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges.
The offense was even less effective that season than it was in 2021, finishing bottom-five in just about every category. Despite the offensive futility, the Steelers managed to start 8-5 that season before three straight losses ended their playoff hopes.
If the defense can return to that level of play in 2022 with a younger and more talented offense, it stands to reason that they could win more than the eight games they did in 2019. The biggest obstacle for the Steelers will be navigating a stacked AFC this season.
Luckily they don’t play most of the teams that really beefed up their roster, and they have significantly improved in their own right. If Pittsburgh gets enough out of whichever QB they decide to start, they could be in the playoff hunt at the end of the season.
Even if the offense barely improves from last season, it’s hard to imagine the team as a whole being worse. They won nine games despite a leaky run defense and injuries to key players on both sides of the ball.
If the Steelers finish with a top-five defense, 11 wins are not out of the question. The Bengals and Ravens will be hard to beat out for the AFC North title, but a Wild Card berth is far from impossible.