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Loaded with high draft picks, time for Steelers underachieving defense to break out

The 2018 draft marked the sixth consecutive year that the Pittsburgh Steelers selected a defensive player in the first round. Only the Green Bay Packers have a longer streak of defensive first rounders at seven. In order, the Steelers have selected:

2018 – Terrell Edmunds

2017 – TJ Watt

2016 – Artie Burns

2015 – Bud Dupree

2014 – Ryan Shazier

2013 – Jarvis Jones

2011 – Cam Heyward

As you can see, this team has used some very high draft capital on trying to improve this defense. It’s not just first round picks either. Of the projected starting eleven for 2018, ten players were drafted no lower than the third round. That’s not including this year’s first rounder Terrell Edmunds. Also not included in this list is first rounder Ryan Shazier, who if healthy would’ve made an astounding eleven for eleven. Here’s the breakdown:

DE – Cam Heyward – 1st round

DT – Javon Hargrave – 3rd round

DE – Stephon Tuitt – 2nd round

OLB – TJ Watt – 1st round

OLB – Bud Dupree – 1st round

ILB – Vince Williams – 6th round

ILB – Jon Bostic – 2nd round

S – Morgan Burnett – 3rd round

S – Sean Davis – 2nd round

CB – Artie Burns – 1st round

CB – Joe Haden – 1st round

With all this high end talent, you’d expect the Steelers to be sporting one of the more dominating defenses in the NFL. Judging by the way last season ended, it’s hard to make anywhere close to that argument. Once again the team was let down in the playoffs by a poor defensive showing. Why the defense remains the Achilles heel of this football team remains a mystery. Is Kevin Colbert just missing on all these high draft picks? Is it the coaching of Mike Tomlin or Kieth Butler? Are the players to blame for not living up to their potential?

One thing we know for sure is despite all the failures, the Pittsburgh brass is all in with this current crop of players and coaches. The entire defensive staff was brought back except for Carnell Lake. No major personnel changes were made during the off-season either. Bargain basement free agents like Bostic and Burnett were brought in to plug holes, but no expensive impact players were signed. The club of course did use ANOTHER first round pick on defense, but Edmunds is not expected to start right away. After that, Kevin Colbert opted to go offense with the next three picks in the draft. It’s as if the team is fine with the defense that walked off the field humiliated by the Jaguars last season. Tomlin and Colbert have spent lots of time defending players and coaching staff, insisting both are good enough to get the job. One more sub-par season or play-off meltdown however, and jobs could be on the line. Too much is invested in this defense to have a repeat of last season.

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