The Steelers defense struggled at different junctures of their season, but they started playing better ball when injuries went away.
Mike Tomlin applied lofty expectations to this defense as he claimed that this team’s success would be based on how this group performed. He was right with that assessment as the type of play that this defense of the Steelers displayed would affect the exact outcome of the games throughout the year. Everyone knew the offense would have a bunch of issues this season and it was up to this group to cover up those problems.
One of the biggest hindrances for this unit has been the health of T.J. Watt. If he is not able to play on game day, this group shrivels up and struggles to perform against their opposition. When Watt is healthy and playing, this group fires on all cylinders and keeps the opposition’s offense low scoring.
Steelers defensive coordinator grade: C+
Teryl Austin just completed his first season as the Steelers defensive coordinator and he did an above average job. It is something almost mythical without the presence of Watt in the lineup for this defense. Trying to find different kinds of solutions to solve some of the woes that this group was struggling with was not accomplished by Austin.
When you have three potential future Hall of Fame players in your lineup, it can make your job much easier. The subtraction of Watt in the lineup tested Austin’s coaching ability and that set back his grade. Tomlin also has a giant blueprint for this defense, so that was also taken into consideration. That could affect what Austin is able to do when making calls, but he did improve as the season went along.