All the Pittsburgh Steelers’ front office have done this year is scream it from the mountain top. The. Defense. Needs. Playmakers.
Mike Tomin said it. Art Rooney II said it. And speaking for the first time this offseason, Kevin Colbert made sure to emphasize that point – unprompted – to the media Wednesday afternoon. That’s how he framed the group in his assessment of the defense.
“Defensively, again there is a little inconsistency from a we led the league or second, I think in sacks, but our turnover production was near the bottom,” Colbert said, a transcript of his interview courtesy of the Associated Press’ Will Graves. “Usually when you are getting pressure you are getting more turnovers and really we think that is reflective of the group we have and that’s not to say we don’t have guys that are capable of making plays in the secondary but we didn’t have that type of production. So, again we are looking to maintain the pressure aspect and improve the turnover part of it.”
Pittsburgh tied for the league lead with 52 sacks, the second straight season they’ve crossed the 50 mark. But almost improbably, they were 29th in takeaways. By comparison, the Kansas City Chiefs, the team they tied in sacks with, ranked eighth in takeaways.
As we wrote about earlier this month, their 108 sacks over the past two seasons are the runaway league leaders. But again, they’re just 26th in takeaways over that span. 2018 marked the first time in NFL history a defense recorded at least 50 sacks but fewer than ten interceptions. Pittsburgh finished with a lowly eight.
Even when Colbert gave praise to specific players, he circled back to the elephant in the room. It didn’t translate into turnovers.
“Again, another young player that stepped up in his second year was T.J. Watt. He did a nice job, continues to grow, but we need more young playmakers, especially in the backend. The young kids that we have, have to continue to get better and make more plays and we must continue to search and look for more playmakers.”
Colbert is surprisingly honest with his free agent and Combine assessments. So if you hear him talk about the talent at corner or safety during his trip to Indy, there’s good odds Pittsburgh makes an early push to address those positions. That is, unless they make the splash in free agency first.