As the headline tells you, NFL Network’s Charlie Casserly gave his opinion for the Pittsburgh Steelers biggest weaknesses coming into 2016. And though this isn’t a perfect team, and his selections not terrible, his reasoning was a little questionable.
For the offense, he pointed to the need to overcome the loss of Martavis Bryant. But apparently, Casserly thinks Bryant is only suspended for four games. This is what he said in reference to expecting Sammie Coates to step up in his absence.
“From that point of view, [Coates will] take care the loss of Bryant for four games. Making the defense depend the deep ball.”
Obviously, Bryant is out for the entire season, not the first month. He’s getting things confused with last year’s suspension. Being unable to remember what the length of a player’s suspension is a criticism to the player himself but this is a bad look from Casserly.
Facts aside, he is at least right to point out the potential Coates has. But that’s all it is right now – potential.
Defensively, Casserly went for the area most pundits focus in on. The secondary. He called that the biggest issue defensively.
“Pass defense. Woah, 30th in the league. Not very strong in that area.”
But what Casserly, and so many others, conflate is pass defense for pass yards. Yards is just a component, an aggregate one at that, and there are so many other components that factor in. As we’ve written before, when you look at pass yards per attempt, the Steelers finished a more respectable – though not ideal – 17th. The fact the run defense was stellar and the team’s ability to play with the lead forced teams to pass more often, obviously increasing the yards per game.
Casserly did make mention of the Steelers’ draft moves, bringing in Artie Burns and Sean Davis. Those were two picks he liked. On Burns, he admired “his size, he’s a physical press corner,” and for Davis, he liked his overall “cover ability.” While he was a fan of both picks, he added the caveat both those players may not see significant snaps until the end of the season.
That is a likely scenario, at best, for Burns, but Davis could make an immediate impact as a dime safety.
The ensuring conversation with the NFLN panel led to comments like one analyst implying the Steelers didn’t create enough turnovers last season. The reality is they finished tied for 6th with 17 interceptions and tied for 4th with 13 fumble recoveries. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Antwon Blake’s against San Diego and William Gay’s against Cincinnati.
It is, if anything, a real highlight from that group last season.
Again, while the overall sentiment of a secondary weakness is reasonable, the overall perception and reasoning misses the mark.