It’s hard not to have high expectations for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary when you just take a look at the roster. They have a good mix of youth and experience as well as a great amount of talent in the defensive backfield, one of the most skilled groups that they have had in years. On paper.
There is the first-round cornerback in Artie Burns, who is still developing. Sean Davis at safety has become a more impactful player, but still has some cleaning up to do. There’s the emerging Mike Hilton in the slot. Then you have the veterans in Joe Haden and Morgan Burnett. And the rookie first-rounder Terrell Edmunds, not to mention Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen coming along, among others.
Even the players in the room are talking about it now. There’s no excuse, given what they have in the room now, for them to not take their success to another level this season. And that includes the infusion of a new defensive backs coach in Tom Bradley. Haden spoke on this topic recently during OTAs.
“Especially having a different position coach, everybody is still trying to get them in at the same time, having some new rookies that we have in the room that are supposed to be making an impact on the team, so everybody’s going through it at the same time”, he said.
Bradley is coming in from a college background, but seems to be making a good impression on both the young players and the older players alike including Burnett, whom Haden credits as being a “smart vet” able to pick up the system quickly.
“But we’ve just got a lot of dudes that just know we’ve got to step up our play in our room”, the former Pro Bowler told reporters. “There’s going to be a lot of competition, a lot of guys that are super talented. You’ve just got to be able to make plays, get the defense down, and keep the ball in front of us”.
The next step is turning the paper accolades into tangible ones. There is a lot of pedigree and a mixture of youth and experience in the secondary now, but we know all the talent in the world doesn’t always come together in the most productive manner. This is no ‘super group’, to be sure, but we need to see them all on the field together first.
And nobody would like to see that more than Haden, a veteran who is going into his ninth season, the first eight with the Cleveland Browns. He never experienced a winning record with his first team, let alone a trip to the postseason.
He got his first taste of playoff football last year, though it didn’t end well. But now that he knows what it’s like, it’s going to be hard for him to settle for anything less than a Super Bowl, and he knows how big the secondary will have to be in order to get them there.