2017 South Side Questions: Stafford’s Showing Cause For Concern?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: How concerned should the Steelers be about the yardage put up by the Lions’ passing offense?

The defense has not been tested significantly through the air very often this season. Games have frequently enough been close enough that the opposition was able to be balanced in their attack—that or they were succeeding so well on the ground that it made sense to stick with it.

And when teams had to start chucking the ball, it was under less than ideal circumstances. Until Sunday night, when the secondary went up against Matthew Stafford and the Lions, with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones at wide receiver.

It wasn’t only the secondary, of course, but also the linebackers who had their issues in coverage. There were missed assignments that led to big plays, missed tackles that led to bigger plays, and holes in zones too big to close in time.

Stafford was probably safely the most talented pure passer that the Steelers have faced, with respect to a player who is able to simply matriculate the ball down the field. It is less surprising that he struggled in the red zone.

But against better quarterbacks—Tom Brady will be lurking soon enough—this performance against the Lions I’m sure has been quite concerning for many fans after the team only allowed about 150 yards through the air on average prior to then.

Was this just a temporary lapse? Were they exposed? Is it somewhere in between? And is there time to fix the issues, or is talent too big of an issue to be able to plug every hole?

In my opinion, we don’t have enough information yet on hand. Besides, there is little to be done aside from waiting out the bye week. The next game will be against Jacoby Brissett and the Colts in Indianapolis, where they’ve found success in recent years, to say the least.

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