One thing we learned Sunday night, this defense is nowhere as good as their rankings say they are. Even after giving up countless big plays to the likes of Brett Hundley, the Steelers are still ranked 4th overall in both points allowed and average yards allowed. Those rankings are extremely deceiving when you start dig a little deeper. What’s important to look at is the level of competition this team has faced thus far. The list of quarterbacks Pittsburgh has gone up against is astonishingly bad. To review, here is ugly list:
- Deshone Kizer – Rookie’s firs game, leads the league in int’s
- Case Keenum – Career backup
- Mike Glennon – Another career backup who’s already been replaced
- Joe Flacco – Hasn’t been good in several years
- Blake Bortles – Quite possibly the worst starter in the league
- Alex Smith – Average at best
- Andy Dalton – See Alex Smith
- Matt Stafford – One of he best, tuned up the Steelers for 429 yards
- Jacoby Brissett – Another backup
- Marcus Mariota – meh
- Brett Hundley – shutout by the Ravens the week before, 3 td passes vs Pittsburgh
Given this list, how are we to properly evaluate this defense? The truth is this defense isn’t very good at all. Despite all the hype, this defense has some pretty significant weaknesses. First and foremost, the secondary is just flat-out bad. Artie Burns has become a liability at this point. He seems out of touch with what’s going on with the rest of the defense. Coty Sensabaugh is not a starting corner back in this league, it’s just that simple. The loss of Joe Haden has caused this secondary to go from average to bad rather quickly. At safety, things aren’t much better. Uneven play, and bad tackling have been the trait no matter who is back there.
The lack of any pass rush from the outside linebackers isn’t helping this secondary either. Having such a dominant interior line leaves both players one on one every time they rush the quarterback. neither Bud Dupree or TJ Watt has been able to take advantage of this. At this point we may have to start looking at Bud Dupree as a bust. In 33 games with the Steelers, Dupree has only managed 12 1/2 sacks. That’s not good enough for a first round pick. This season will be the seventh in a row where a Steelers outside linebacker has not reached double-digit sacks. It’s a remarkable stat, and a seeming blind spot for Kevin Colbert to evaluate over the years.
The good news here is this defense is not without talent. Players like Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Ryan Shazier are all playing at very high levels. There is a ton of potential even at their weak spots. Nobody would argue that Burns and Sean Davis aren’t talented. The same is true for Dupree and TJ Watt. Watt has been very good in his rookie season, particularly in coverage. The bottom line is this defense needs to play much better and more consistent despite their lofty rankings. With the game against the New England Patriots looming, playing like they did on Sunday will get them blown out. That’s not something we want to see…….again.