The Pittsburgh Steelers allowed Joe Burrow to have a field day in Week 11. Here’s why their pass defense is among the biggest takeaways in the loss vs the Bengals.
I know that the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t going to be able to repeat the five takeaways they earned against the Bengals the first time around in Week 1. It wasn’t reasonable to think that there was any chance of this happening on Sunday. I knew it was going to require a more consistent defensive performance, but the defense simply did not deliver.
After racking up 299 yards in his first contest against the Steelers, QB Joe Burrow followed that performance up with 355 yards and 4 touchdowns against Pittsburgh in Week 11. This is an indictment on their secondary and their pass defense in general.
Burrow is one of the best in the business — there’s no argument there. But this defense was humiliated by how the Bengals quarterback was able to effortlessly pick them apart. Even with the two interceptions in this game (one on an unreal, point-blank pick by T.J. Watt), Burrow was still phenomenal. He averaged a whopping 9.1 yards per attempt to go with his 104.1 passer rating, via ESPN stats.
Aside from a couple of nice plays in coverage, this secondary was simply embarrassed. They gave way too much cushion and allowed receivers to run away from them after the catch. While there are a number of factors we can attribute this Steelers loss to, none is bigger than their inability to slow down the passing game.
Steelers need to overhaul their cornerback position
This was a game the secondary would like to forget. With their 2022 season hanging by a thread, the secondary really let this team down in Week 11 against the Bengals. Eventually, Cincinnati was able to rack up 37 points and put this game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
From what I witnessed, it was a pretty bad performance all around. Levi Wallace had a big interception in this contest, but he also gave up a number of costly plays — including (but not limited to) a 32-yard catch and run by backup Bengals receiver, Trent Irwin.
Cameron Sutton — who is typically Pittsburgh’s best corner — was embarrassed often by Tee Higgins in this contest and proved to be a detriment to the team. The same goes for Arthur Maulet, who just always seems to be a step behind in coverage.
This is a big issue that must be addressed in the offseason. As much as a like the grit and physicality of this cornerback group, their lack of size, length, and elite athletic traits make it easy for accurate quarterbacks like Joe Burrow to pick them apart.
Pittsburgh’s linebackers aren’t getting off the hook in this contest either, as they struggled to stop Samaje Perine from getting to the sideline on swing passes and allowed receivers to cross their face over the middle of the field. However, the cornerbacks were collectively dreadful in this contest.
This was a team loss with coaches and players on both sides of the ball to blame. But it’s clear that these unspectacular cornerbacks simply aren’t going to cut it against good quarterbacks, and the Pittsburgh Steelers need to start looking for a long-term improvement plan.