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2016 South Side Questions: Game Edition – Where Is The Dime Defense?

Training camp has ended, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have reverted back to taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While training camp might have seen a lot of work put into the team and the roster, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well, since training camp is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is really one that lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Game Edition – Will we see the Steelers utilize their dime or ‘quarter’ package against the Saints?

The Steelers have played two preseason games thus far. In those two games, they have logged 150 snaps on the defensive side of the ball. Yet in none of those 150 snaps has the team displayed what became a popular defensive package late in the season last year, the dime or ‘quarter’ defense that employs six defensive backs.

Granted, this package was sparsely used—or perhaps not at all, if memory serves—in the preseason a year ago, and then they suddenly tried to break it out in the season opener, to poor results, in no small part because they ended up changing the starting strong safety and used the then-fourth-string safety as the ‘quarter’ safety.

Thus, to say that a lack of a presence of a six-defensive-back look in the preseason is a foretelling that the defense does not plan to make use of it during the regular season would be saying far too much, to put it simply. However, it would no longer be a surprise to see them break it out, as they seemingly hoped to spring on New England in the opener last year.

More importantly, they have a number of young pieces in the secondary who would obviously need to get the reps, in that package or in any package, in order to successfully operate out of that defense.

It seemed much clearer to me prior to Senquez Golson’s injury that the Steelers wanted to make liberal use of the quarter package, but with Sean Davis now in the slot, I am no longer so sure. Would Davis move back to safety and bring another cornerback on? Would Shamarko Thomas come on as the third safety?

If the Steelers intend to make use of the package during the year—and I do believe that that is still the intention—then I would like to see it get some use tonight against the Saints, who have had one of the most high-octane offenses in the league for the better part of the past decade.

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