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Steelers Defense Awaits Stiffer Challenge

Over the course of the first two games, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has held their opponents to a respectable 27 points, working out to an average of 13.5 points per game through the first two weeks of the season. As of this writing, they are actually fourth in the league in averaging 237 yards of total offense, though they are not in the top five of either rushing or passing yards allowed individually.

Their 3.9 yards per play allowed is the third-best in the league. Their 30-percent third-down conversion rate is top 10, as is their completion percentage and quarterback rating against. And they are tied for the second-most sacks in the league.

But they have yet to face a serious test, either. So far, their daunting tasks have been DeShone Kizer in the first game of his career and Case Keenum stepping in for Sam Bradford. While they are to be commended for what they have managed to accomplish to this stage, they know that the bigger trials lie ahead.

And realistically, it might be a while before they face a real vertical passing threat. Next on deck is the Bears and Mike Glennon in Chicago, then they head to Baltimore to take on Joe Flacco, who has lost yet another offensive lineman. Then they swing back home to host Blake Bortles and the Jaguars, who seem to have already gotten their solid play out of their system.

It won’t be until Week Six that the Steelers will have the opportunity to face a quarterback who can be argued to be in the top 10, and that would be Alex Smith and the Chiefs—a team that they just so happened to have beaten not once, but twice last year, including in Kansas City in the playoffs.

In all fairness, Smith and the passing offense have proven to be potent so far. He is completing nearly 80 percent of his passes, averaging nearly 10 yards per attempt, and has thrown five touchdowns to zero interceptions with a quarterback rating nearing 140.

Somehow, some way, the Ravens actually have more explosive passing plays through two games than all but two teams—though those two teams are the Saints and Colts, both of whom are 0-2, so that doesn’t exactly tell you all that much.

Speaking of Flacco, he has so far completed 34 of 51 pass attempts for 338 yards, averaging just 6.6 yards per attempt with three touchdown passes to two interceptions. He has been sacked three times, but with the loss of Marshal Yanda, who has not allowed a sack in over a year, that number will be hard to keep down.

In fairness, as much as the Ravens’ defense is being touted right now, it does have to be said that they have so far beaten the Browns and Bengals, so if the Steelers’ defense is to be questioned for their quality of opponent, then so must theirs. They did allow 300 passing yards to the Browns yesterday.

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