The Steelers defense seemed like the strong point of this team at the beginning of the year, but now it could be more of a weakness.
The game against the Jets was a tale of two halves for both sides of this roster that calls Pittsburgh home. Heading into the year, this defensive unit was expected to be stout and hold down the fort. The questions on the offensive side of the ball were going to be too difficult for this defense to not play well.
Unfortunately, this group has not lived up to the hype for a variety of reasons to this juncture. Injuries have piled up early into the season at key positions for the Steelers. Other instances, like the inability to get off the field on possession downs has aided the club into the current hole that they are in.
The defensive line is starting to fall off again
Currently, this might be one of the more disappointing areas of the team. Larry Ogunjobi has shown flashes of brilliance, but he has also been struggling at different moments as well. Cam Heyward also might be one of the quietest big names on the roster right now and he will need to start making a bigger impact for this team to see more positive results.
Things have not been completely terrible for this group but opposing offenses have been able to run the ball effectively against them. Heyward and Ogunjobi can only do so much, but they need to take their games to the next level. The depth guys are coming along, but some veterans like Tyson Alualu seem to not be adding much to the trenches.
Alex Highsmith is the best person up front on defense currently
Another week led to Alex Highsmith being the only real pass rush for the Steelers defense. He could have had another couple of sacks, but Zach Wilson’s elusiveness took away some of those opportunities. This edge rusher has stepped up with T.J. Watt out with injury, those around him are the ones failing this club.
Nothing special from this group besides Highsmith. He is a one-man show currently and none of the reserve players have shown much of anything. Watt cannot come back to the field fast enough, but things have been ugly on the edge for this defense without him present. Their lack of pressure in the big moments of a game has been negligent to put it nicely.
Robert Spillane performed embarrassingly which could get him in trouble
There were some big moments that crippled this defense, and a good majority of those were over the middle of this defense. Myles Jack had a good game overall, but he missed a tackle for loss that resulted in a touchdown by the Jets. Devin Bush did not do anything special, but he did not affect his team in a terribly negative way either.
The Steelers biggest negative was Robert Spillane. He was the worst player on the field between both clubs that jumped on the grass this past Sunday. Spillane routinely fails in coverage, but he is always out there for some reason lined up as a mismatch. Things have been ugly for him and that will not be changing anytime soon.
Arthur Maulet could not handle himself as the rest of the corners struggled
Coming into this contest most knew that there would be a couple of mismatches that this secondary would struggle against. Sadly, Terrell Edmunds got hurt early in the one and that led to no options being open to try and correct some of these issues. Losing Ahkello Witherspoon with a hamstring to an unknown period could prove costly.
Cam Sutton is the only reason that this group did not get a failing grade because he got an interception and has played well. Arthur Maulet is unplayable in the secondary and can only be used near the line of scrimmage. It was an ugly day at the office for the secondary that got torched and allowed for a late game touchdown that cost them in the end.
Fitzpatrick was special as the safety spot tried to deal with injuries
Minkah Fitzpatrick continues to be playing at a high level after nearly having a pick six and almost another toe-tapping interception. He was unable to accomplish either, but he did help set up Kenny Pickett and the offense to score a touchdown. The Steelers defense at least has his high level of play going for them, but they were missing his safety partner.
Tre Norwood came in when Edmunds got hurt early in the game. He was able to handle himself respectfully, but the secondary was missing him in the slot. Maulet could not handle his assigned receiver during the contest and the injury to Edmunds did not allow for Norwood to move into that role to try and stop the bleeding.
Steelers defense overall grade: D-
Pittsburgh’s defense was still able to cause some turnovers, which did help the cause overall. The biggest issue for this group is their lack of ability to get off the field on possession downs. Not enough pressure is getting after the quarterback late in games to seal a win for their team.
The Steelers defense has not played well since week one and there are many different reasons behind that. Things need to change quickly but their current injury report could make them sink even further. If most or all the players listed on the injured list cannot go against the Bills this week it will make this performance against the Jets look immaculate.
The Steelers defense is becoming a concerning group with a lack of quality of play and injuries starting to pile up. This schedule is not getting any easier and this group seems like they cannot be relied on.