Much has been made about the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense this year. Statistically, they look strong, especially in the secondary, where they ranked tops in the league until Matthew Stafford tore them up (they’re now tied for second). But hear from the players themselves and they’re not nearly as satisfied as the national media leads on. They know consistency is the key.
“We’ll play good against the run one week, and won’t play good against the pass,” linebacker Vince Williams told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “Then we will play good against the pass one week, and we won’t play good against the run. Or we won’t force enough turnovers. Or we will have poor red zone defense. We just have to put everything together every single time we step on the field.”
That was true Sunday night. The Steelers shut down the Detroit Lions’ run game and had one of their best performances ever in the red zone but still allowed Stafford to throw for well over 400 yards and move the ball at will, aided by communication breakdowns in the secondary.
Communication might be at the top of that list. The defense openly talked about it being an issue two weeks ago against Cincinnati, Andy Dalton marching the Bengals down the field twice for a quick 14 points. They cleared things up at halftime and shut things down from there. But that didn’t happen against the Lions and communication miscues led to wide open receivers.
Consistency also applies to the run game. When it’s been good, it’s been really good. Shutting down Kareem Hunt is one of the best things the defense has done this year. When it’s been bad, you get the Chicago game. But there’s not doubting the talent is there. It’s just a matter of execution.
“I think we are capable of being the very best defense in the league by far,” Williams said.
The stat that matters above all else, points allowed, is favorable to Pittsburgh. They’re second best in the NFL at 16.4 points per game and on pace to allow just 262 points in 2017, which would be their lowest since 2011.