With one quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 season now in the books, it’s time for us to hand out some awards. After already handing out our offensive awards, we’ll now address the defensive side of the football.
Defensive MVP – Stephon Tuitt – While he’s far from being considered a finished product, second-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt had a great first quarter of the 2015 season. The former second-round draft pick already has four sacks on the season and thus currently leads the team in that statistical category. Tuitt has also registered 12 defensive stops through the team’s first four games and he’s been on the field for 253 of the possible 283 snaps the defensive snaps played so far this season.
Defensive MVP Honorable Mention – Cameron Heyward – If not for the play of Tuitt, fellow defensive end Cameron Heyward would’ve easily won the defensive MVP award for the first quarter of the season. Heyward already has two sacks on the season and like Tuitt, he also has 12 defensive stops to go along with a forced fumble.
Biggest Disappointment – Ryan Shazier – Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was well on his way to possibly becoming the defensive MVP of the first quarter of the season after registering a career-high 15 total tackles in the Week 2 game against the San Francisco 49ers. However, a shoulder injury suffered late in that contest resulted in Shazier missing the next two games. While his overall play on the field certainly hasn’t been a disappointment, the fact that he can’t seemingly be counted on to stay healthy certainly is. Early word seems to be that Shazier will return to action in Week 5 and hopefully he can pick up where he left off at in Week 2.
Biggest Improvement – Mike Mitchell – Starting safety Mike Mitchell still has a long way to go to live up to the big contract he signed a few years ago. Even so, the veteran has played much better so far through the team’s first four games of 2015. The Steelers defense has only given up 5 explosive plays of 20 yards or more so far this season and while Mitchell certainly doesn’t deserve all of the credit for that stat, he has played a role in that number being very low.
Surprising Stat – Steve McLendon – While starting nose tackle Steve McLendon usually only sees the field in the team’s base and goal-line personnel packages, it should be noted that opposing offenses have averaged just 2.43 yards per rushing attempt when he has been on the field. McLendon has logged 105 defensive snaps so far this season.