During his 17 years in the NFL, Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson made several big plays and that included him registering 71 regular season interceptions, forcing 20 fumbles and recovering 32 fumbles. On Thursday, Woodson was a guest on NFL Total Access and the former first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers told Lindsay Rhodes that his old team’s defense needs what the offense has had for several years now, and that’s a playmaker.
“At the end of the day, when they lose their game against Jacksonville, 42-45, your defense is a concern and I can’t remember the last time time they had a playmaker on the defensive side,” Woodson said. “[Ryan] Shazier was going to be that guy and he unfortunately got hurt. The last time that I saw a playmaker on that side, Troy Polamalu was suited up for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“They need to find somebody who’s going to make a big play for this football team in critical situations when you have to have it for the defense. That’s been my concern for them is that can they find a guy, did they draft a guy this year? Is one of the new guys coming in going to be that guy? Who’s going to be the leader to take charge of that defense to make them the players they need to be?”
While Woodson is stating an obvious fact, it is a good one and maybe one that’s not mentioned quite enough. Last year during the regular season the Steelers defense registered 16 interceptions and recovered 6 forced fumbles. Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who will sit out the 2018 season due to a serious spinal injury that he suffered last season, was responsible for 3 of those interceptions in addition to forcing two fumbles and recovering one. Three of the other interceptions registered by the Steelers defense last season, along with two forced fumbles, were credited to three different players who are no longer on the roster in cornerback William Gay and safeties Robert Golden and J.J. Wilcox.
While the Steelers did sign three defensive free agents this offseason in linebacker Jon Bostic and safeties Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe, the three of them combined to register just one forced fumble last season with their former teams. The Steelers also spent this year’s first-round draft pick on former Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds and he only had two interceptions during his final college season.
The last time the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl was in 2010 and that season the defense registered 21 interceptions and recovered 10 fumbles during the regular season. During the 2008 and 2005 regular seasons, both of which culminated in Pittsburgh being crowned Super Bowl champions, the Steelers defense totaled 28 and 27 takeaways, respectively. Will the Steelers 2018 defense be able to register 27 or more takeaways during the 2018 regular season? If so, they’ll need a new playmaker or two to come forward.