You probably don’t have to find an expert in order to locate somebody who is willing to share with you their opinion that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest question facing the team heading into this offseason is how they can improve their pass rush, which has seemed to be a problem for a number of years now.
While they were able to improve in 2016 as the regular season evolved and the defense became more amenable to blitzes, they struggled significantly to get pressure on Tom Brady against the Patriots on Sunday, which, aside from blown assignments and getting fooled on misdirection—and missed tackles—was clearly their biggest problem on defense in their 36 points allowed.
You can count Pro Football Focus within the group that believes that the Steelers’ biggest need this year is another player who can get after the passer, which has been pretty much the universal answer from basically everybody that I have seen comment on the matter.
The site is running a column that poses the biggest question that they have facing every team as they get eliminated from the postseason, and the question that they asked for Pittsburgh was whether or not they would “finally draft an impact pass-rusher”.
Impact, of course, is the key word in that equation, as the Steelers have drafted pass rushers. They drafted outside linebackers in the first round in 2013 and in 2015, but Jarvis Jones proved to be a bust, failing to come even close to double-digit sacks over the entire length of his four-year career.
While the jury is still out on the future for Bud Dupree, their 2015 first-round draft pick, PFF is not among the group that is high on his upside, even if he did record four and a half sacks in his final four regular season games, and then had a half sack and a hit that forced an interception in the first two postseason games.
“Dupree hasn’t made the type of impact the Steelers were hoping for, and while he does have more career sacks than Jones, the former Kentucky Wildcat is a bigger liability against the run, showing only flashes of good play in his two pro seasons”, the article reads. “Adding to those concerns, Jones and Dupree combined for zero QB pressures in the AFC Championship game”.
Of course, Dupree missed the first nine games of the regular season—effectively, the first 10 games—as he was recovering from a sports hernia injury that required surgery. He spent the season slowly gaining more mobility, flexibility, strength, and speed, and looked to be gradually improving, but his development was still stunted.
Still, even assuming improvement from Dupree, you won’t find much of an argument that the Steelers could very well use yet another pass rusher in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, as it still seems to be a significant problem. They don’t have any rushers that an opposing offensive coordinator has to plan for.