While the Pittsburgh Steelers did manage to register a big road win Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers, it’s way too early to deem their defense that allowed 736 yards of offense in the first two games of the season as being fixed.
Fortunately for the Steelers, the Panthers didn’t have the ability to run the outside zone Sunday night thanks to them being without the services of running back DeAngelo Williams and not having a very athletic offensive line. In addition, veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who is still a very good run blocker, also missed the game due to an injury.
Despite the game being very close throughout the entire first half, the Panthers only ran the ball five times out of the 23 plays from scrimmage that they ran in the first 30 minutes of action.
Even though they chose to abandon the run early, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton still managed to complete 12 of the 17 first half passes for 117 yards that he attempted in the first half while only being sacked once.
It wasn’t until Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones registered a strip-sack of Newton on third and 15 during the Panthers opening possession of the second half that the defense finally found their footing and started playing downhill.
As noted in previous posts last week, the defense that Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau runs is at its best when they have opposing offenses way behind the chains or down big on the scoreboard. Such was the case Sunday night in the second half against the Panthers.
Even so, the Steelers defense still surrendered three explosive plays of 20 yards or more to the Panthers in the fourth quarter with two of those going for touchdowns of 35 yards or more. With such a big lead, that’s the last thing that should happen.
To make matters worse, the Steelers defense will now likely be without the services of three defensive starters for the foreseeable future as Jones, Ryan Shazier and Ike Taylor were all injured Sunday night.
Luckily for the Steelers their schedule softens up the next two weeks as they will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then travel to play the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road, respectively. Both teams exit Week 3 winless and both figure have inexperienced quarterbacks under center when they play Pittsburgh.
These next two weeks will serve as a perfect opportunity for the Steelers defense to fix what still ails them.