2016 South Side Questions: Game Edition – Will Steelers Get Back To Using Dime?

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: Game Edition – Will the Steelers get back to the dime defense?

I wanted to make this a two-part question, but the reality is that injuries make the second question—who will be the dime defenders—moot, as they only have eight healthy defensive backs, and two are highly unlikely to be asked to contribute.

The team has hardly run the dime defense at all—perhaps indeed not at all—since safety Robert Golden left early in the Eagles game with a hamstring injury. Following that injury, Sean Davis moved from the slot to his safety position, and Artie Burns slid outside, kicking William Gay inside.

Last week, that was still the same idea, only Davis was sidelined, and they used Jordan Dangerfield as the safety instead. But they also used Justin Gilbert at times for eight snaps over the course of the game.

And yet when they did use him, they opted not to use six defensive backs. In fact, they used just one safety, which is something that I cannot recall seeing them do in recent history. Four cornerbacks and a safety was the look, taking Dangerfield off the field.

Will they leave him on the field this time after he earned some trust points with the coaching staff a week ago making his first start? Even with Gilbert out, Davis is back to take his place in one slot, or as the dime safety, with Dangerfield moving up into the box, or as one of two slot defenders with Gay being the other.

Of course, what the Steelers do often reflects what their opponent is doing, and the Jets may not offer an incredible amount of options at wide receiver for Pittsburgh to defend today. Eric Decker is already ruled out for the game, while two more receivers are listed as questionable or doubtful.

If they get the Jets trailing early, however, they will have to commit to throwing the ball, which, as it did against the Bengals, could provide for the late-game opportunity to see a lot of the dime defense, which has been on the shelf for a while now.

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