The Steelers defense could return to championship form in 2023
In 2022, the defense ranked thirteenth in average yards allowed per game and tenth in average points allowed per game. Clearly, the defense was not the problem for us in 2022. Honestly, I expect the defense to perform similarly or better in 2023. With Pro Bowlers like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and with the emergence of Alex Highsmith, we have the foundation already in place.
Newcomer and rookie Nick Herbig, the brother of Nate Herbig, 'lit it up' during preseason. Herbig was almost unblockable at times. That bodes well for a defense that frankly struggled last season to find a viable rotational outside linebacker. Again, there's no guarantee that Herbig will be able to replicate that performance in the regular season, but it is encouraging to see that from a rookie.
Our inside linebackers are almost completely new with the additions of Cole Holcomb, Kwon Alexander, and Elandon Roberts, all of whom played pretty well in preseason. I still think a weakness may lie in pass coverage, albeit I don't think we will see any of them as the sub-package linebacker with any consistency.
I think it is more likely that we will see three safeties on the field in obvious passing situations, which is not a bold statement as that is essentially the personnel grouping we have deployed, for the most part, for the past decade or so.
Cornerback is looking pretty solid as well with the additions of Patrick Peterson, Desmond King, and rookie Joey Porter, Jr. Since King did not play any snaps for us in preseason, it's hard to project what impact he will have on the defense.
Let's discuss what we can expect from special teams and from the front office.