I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: The 2018 starting secondary will be the best group since 2010.
I’m using the 2010 season as the end point because it is the last time that the Steelers reached the Super Bowl. They spent the next four seasons after that without winning a playoff game. The Steelers that season fielded a team of Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden with William Gay in the slot and Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark at safety.
Clark’s greatest asset was his ability to be the communicator in the secondary, and Morgan Burnett will be up to that task better than Mike Mitchell ever was. Sean Davis has received overly harsh criticism even with the understanding of the missed tackles and, with Artie Burns, should only be better this year. Joe Haden is the best cornerback on the team since Taylor, and Mike Hilton could be the most dynamic presence from the slot since Carnell Lake.
Keenan Lewis had a good season as a starter in between, but the secondary around him was in disarray. There has been year-to-year instability for the better part of the past decade now, and this year could be the start of a change.
The secondary might look promising on paper, but it all needs to work out in the end. While they’ve added veterans in Burnett and Haden, both of them have a history of missing games. Davis and Burns are still unproven commodities as they enter their third season. Hilton has the task of proving that he can repeat the sort of performance that he showed during his first season.
There might not be a lot of choice years to choose from, but the 2011 and 2012 defenses still put up very good numbers. They allowed just 4.9 net yards per pass attempt in 2011 and 5.3 in 2012. Last year they allowed 5.8, largely bolstered by a strong start before giving way to an ugly finish. 2016 was 6.2 for those curious.