If you watched every game the Pittsburgh Steelers played this past season you should already know the issues the team’s defense had throughout the year. On Thursday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert held his annual pre-combine interview with several members of the local media and during it he went over the issues the team’s defense had during the 2017 season and none of them should come as a surprise.
“We know we have challenges defensively, we have to be better against the run, so how do we get better against the run? Is it adding players?” Colbert said, according to pennlive.com. “Again, hoping your regression is less than the progression with the guys you have. We have to get fewer big plays defensively. It’s something that we haven’t had in the past.”
The Steelers defense certainly had issues against the run last season and quite a few of those happened after starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was lost for the season due to a serious back injury in Week 13. With that said, during the Steelers first 12 regular season games, their defense gave up far too many explosive runs of 20 yards or more and that in turn was heavily reflected in their yards per carry statistic.
If the big running plays allowed last season weren’t bad enough, the Steelers defense also gave up way too many explosive passing plays as well. Of those 48 regular season passing plays of 20 yards or more that the defense allowed, 13 of them were double explosive plays of 40 yards or more and half of those resulted in touchdowns, and that tied them for the league-lead in that dubious statistical category. To add insult to injury, the Steelers gave up another three explosive passing plays to the Jacksonville Jaguars offense in their Divisional Round playoff loss and two of those went for 40 or more yards as well.
While the Steelers defense did record a franchise-best 56 sacks during the 2017 regular season, the unit failed to register a single one against the Jaguars in their playoff loss and that, in addition to letting the Jacksonville offense rush for 164 yards at Heinz Field, was totally unacceptable in Colbert’s opinion.
“We have to be better. I don’t think we were better in 2017 than we were in 2016 because we were eliminated a round earlier,” Colbert said Thursday according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Steelers Colbert said about defense “It’s almost like we were under aggressive against the run and over aggressive against the pass”
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) February 15, 2018
Colbert had one statement on Thursday that probably best sums up the play of the Steelers defense in 2017.
“It’s almost like we were under aggressive against the run and over aggressive against the pass,” he said, per Bouchette.
Colbert indicated Thursday morning that the Steelers defensive unit will look much different in 2018 than it did in 2017. In short, not only will Colbert probably look to add one or two new defensive players via the upcoming free agent signing period – the draft, as team president Art Rooney II said on Wednesday during a conference call with fans of the team, is expected to be defensive-heavy as well. Colbert also made it clear that a few veteran players currently under contract for the 2018 season might be jettisoned sooner rather than later and while he didn’t name any names, it’s easy to assume that list will only include defensive players.
“If we don’t change the roster, what reason would we think there would be any better results,” Colbert said Thursday, according to Rich Walsh of KDKA-TV.
Colbert talked about the current roster and said – “if we don’t change roster what reason would we think there would be any better results”
— Rich Walsh KDKA (@RichieWalsh) February 15, 2018