Steelers defense bent, but didn’t break vs Ravens in Week 14
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense was able to hold the line against the Ravens on Sunday but still failed to win the game.
Another week means another chance to describe how underappreciated this defense has been. This season has been a rollercoaster with more downs than ups for the Steelers. This defensive unit has not been perfect, but they have given this club plenty of chances to stay in games for the most part.
Struggles up front still remain a problem for the Steelers
Defending against the run has started to show signs of steady improvement unit this week against the Ravens. The defensive line was not the sole blame, but they did allow for over 200 yards allowed on the ground. They allowed this to happen with a backup quarterback in the fold that is also known for relying on his rushing ability.
Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley teamed up for a sack in this contest. They were able to rush the passer some, but that was not too consistent. Their struggles against the run are very concerning and it needs to be fixed. The Steelers will have to find an upgrade in the draft for these issues to settle down.
Edge rushers started to show some positive signs against a solid tackle duo
Things would be different if T.J. Watt was not playing through injury, but that is the reality that Pittsburgh must deal with. He has not been the same caliber of player since he injured his ribs a couple of weeks ago and that has limited him. The rest of the edge rushers have been somewhat quiet in the past two games, and that is hurting this defense significantly.
There were not many opportunities for these edge rushers to get after the quarterback. The Ravens took a run-heavy approach to this game and that worked in their favor. Alex Highsmith was quiet for most of the contest and Watt was able to apply some pressure when the opportunity arose.
Every inside linebacker had a terrible day at the office against Baltimore
We now reach the worst positional group on the defensive side of the ball during this game. The inside linebackers should be sharing a heavy helping of the blame for what happened. Devin Bush, Myles Jack, and Robert Spillane were giant factors when it came to Baltimore running all over the field.
They looked weak and out of place for most of the game. They have not been playing well over the last several weeks and that has led to this moment. It is extremely frustrating to watch a group of players in over their heads with their current positions as starting linebacker in the NFL when they should be backups at best.
Cam Sutton is starting to play better down the stretch for the defense
It was not a crazy day at work for the cornerbacks as the Ravens only threw the ball 17 times throughout the game. That factored into the corners needing to step up and help the defense against the run. Most of the cornerbacks had a good game, but they were not tested much.
Nothing special from this group, but they did play well when they were challenged through the air. Arthur Maulet has still done a nice job when he is deployed correctly on the field. Cam Sutton is also having a resurgence since the bye week to try and get more money in his next contract this offseason.
Both safeties played physical but it was not their best game of the season
We are back again to see both safeties as the two top tacklers for this defense yet again. That is normally not a good thing for the outcome of your team, and it was not in this case either. Both Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick had to come into the play and make some big tackles where it mattered most.
Neither made a turnover, but they have been a reliable tackling duo for the Steelers. That is significant with the lack of run defense in front of them, which has caused them to become more focused on attacking the play. These two are still one of the best tandems in the league.
Steelers overall defense grade: C+
It was a struggle to decide on a B- or a C+ for this defensive performance. They had some positives in their game with the secondary and getting after the quarterback a couple of times. The giant negative of allowing over 200 rushing yards was too much of a despicable sight to comprehend.
The defense did their job as a whole and did not give up a ton of points. That was still not enough as the offense continues to fail this group as a whole.