Devil’s Advocate: Better In ’17 – Coverage Or Pressure

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Coverage and pressure go together, or so I hear. So which have the Steelers done more to improve? Which will be the bigger strength this year, and next year?

Over the course of the past three drafts, the Steelers have taken two outside linebackers, two cornerbacks, and a safety within the first two rounds in Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Artie Burns, Senquez Golson, and Sean Davis. Three of them are starting, while one is a rookie, and we know the story with Golson already, of course.

I think it would be fair to say that by the end of last season, neither the pass-rush nor the coverage aspect was quite where the team would like it to be, even though both showed improvement over the course of the year.

They’ve continued to address both, while anticipating improvements from within, so which will be better this year?

There should be a major step up from Bud Dupree this year. He was productive in terms of getting sacks when he finally got on the field, and he has committed himself to becoming a complete and dynamic pass-rusher. Add Watt to the mix, he already seems ahead of the curve, and we have a group better-equipped to get home. Not even mentioning the defensive line.

But the secondary has not one but two young starters who are continuing to blossom, and who in their second season will allow the Steelers to expand the sorts of coverage schemes they can run. The mere fact of increased versatility alone makes a powerful case for the coverage being the more improved aspect of the two.

And you can frankly include the coverage adaptability of their two young and extremely athletic outside linebackers into the discussion. And the continued improvement in coverage from Ryan Shazier. And potentially the introduction of a dime safety for passing situations.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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