The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is 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 regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: How will the Steelers utilize their dime defense during the third game of the regular season?
Over the course of the first two games of the season, we have seen the Steelers dabble in the use of their six-secondary sub-package a bit in the first game, and then use it extensively on Sunday against the Bengals.
One thing that was consistent throughout both games is that they made use of the quarter defense in the most obvious of situations—namely, the bulk of obvious third-and-long passing downs. This was mostly true for the game in Washington, and even more consistent against the Bengals.
But the package saw expansion at the end of each half against the Bengals, and at the end of each game. the Steelers used it for the entirety of a six-play drive in Washington in the fourth quarter, and then used it almost exclusively through the fourth quarter against the Bengals.
It would seem to be that an obvious upward trend in usage, but I would not think it is obvious to continue, by any means. Obviously, as the team draws greater and greater confidence in their two rookie defensive backs, they will be more willing to put them, and thus the quarter package, on the field.
But both games saw extensive time with the Steelers playing with a lead in the second half, often a two-possession lead, and that obviously goes a long way toward dictating how much they are going to use a personnel grouping made up primarily of defensive backs.
It does seem that it is something that they want to do, and it represents a continuation from what we saw last season. They dabbled in the quarter package in the season opener, but communication issues plagued the look, and it wasn’t revisited until late in the year.
When they did get into the swing of things, the Steelers liked to used it selectively for about a dozen or so snaps a game, and that might be where they look to settle in this year, depending on in-game circumstances. But right now they’re still in a feeling-out mode, and that could lead to either a lessening or increase of usage than what they would prefer, either in order to shield its deficiencies or to work out the kinks.
A bonus factor is going up against a rookie quarterback when the Steelers have already emphasized greater numbers in coverage this year. The team would like to try to confuse the young man and force him to throw it into seemingly open windows that close quickly, and this could be accomplished with more dime.