2018 Offseason Questions: Fans Too Critical Of Defense?

T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: Are Steelers fans too critical of the team’s defense?

The saying goes that you’re only as good as your last game, and it is in no small part due to that fact that the Steelers’ defense gets torn apart, especially by their fans. While the offense spotted the Jaguars some points in the postseason loss, there’s no disputing that the majority of the blame for that outcome rests on their shoulders.

I’ve personally never subscribed to the idea that any one game could hold that much weight, even if it’s the most important game ever played. When all is said and done, it’s still just 60 minutes of a much larger body of work from which to judge.

That’s not to say that that absolves the unit of much of anything. Their struggles against the run, for example, were sporadic throughout the year even before the floodgates opened after Ryan Shazier’s injury. They had some good games against the run, and then allowed a couple of 200-yard affairs.

Many believe that the early success of the secondary was a mirage and that the high volume of explosive plays allowed—actually 40-plus-yard plays, and most of them turning into touchdowns—was more representative of who they really were all along.

Is that the case? Or were there other factors at play that resulted in them playing worse that can be or has been corrected? Is the truth somewhere in between?

Basically, is the defense going to be better in 2018 than most people seem to be allowing for? At least on paper they seem to have talent at all three levels, especially up front on the defensive line. They have a couple of veterans in the secondary now that they have added in the past year, and T.J. Watt could be a difference-maker at linebacker.

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