It sure sounds like Stephon Tuitt will be back. Hallelujah for that. Javon Hargrave definitely capitalized and showed how impactful a pass rusher he is but the rest of the group – and this defense – suffered. It’s no coincidence the run defense tanked in the two weeks he was gone.
Jacksonville ran up and down the field in the first half two weeks ago before the Steelers managed to buckle down. Denver’s Phillip Lindsay gashed Pittsburgh for over 100 yards and nearly eight yards per carry.
Game circumstance played a factor, I know, but this stat from our Daniel Valente sums up just how much they missed #91.
#Steelers defending the run
Last two games: 303 total rushing yards allowed
Four games prior: 292 total rushing yards allowed.
Stephon Tuitt can’t come back soon enough.
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) November 27, 2018
Tuitt himself was riding a hot streak before suffering his hyperextended elbow. He recorded sacks in three of his last four games, playing like we all knew he was capable of and the level he needed to be at to match his contract and make this defense effective.
Depth can only be so good but what the Steelers had didn’t cut it. I’m planning on writing about it more later in the week but backups like Daniel McCullers and L.T. Walton offered very little to this defense, especially as pass rushers. Walton is one of football’s least effective pass rushing ends and even Tyson Alualu, a serviceable backup, is generally limited in getting after the quarterback too.
It put the onus on Cam Heyward and Hargrave to get the job done. Both performed well but neither can play 90% of the time on a consistent basis and when they exited the game, the Steelers’ defense was worse off because of it.
No one’s more excited to return than Tuitt himself, who posted this video shortly after Mike Tomlin announced he would return to practice. Tuitt said last night he will play Sunday versus the Los Angeles Chargers.
While the Chargers will be without Melvin Gordon, they still boast one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks and have a more than capable backup in Austin Ekeler.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Steelers rotate Tuitt and Hargrave in passing situations but you can file that under a good problem to have. The bottom line is the Steelers be back to having quality depth, especially for their sub-packages.