The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will the dime defense continue to be the Steelers most-used defensive package in 2019?
Though there was no one package that saw a majority of the workload on the defensive side of the ball for the Steelers last season, none was used more frequently than the dime defense, which by preference features three cornerbacks and three safeties, but the team used Cameron Sutton as the sixth defensive back some last season due to injuries.
The impressive thing about the fact that the dime defense continued to be the Steelers most-deployed package is the fact that there wasn’t much of a fixed role there for a variety of reasons, chief among them being injuries, as no fewer than four players served as the dime back at different portions of the season.
The plan going into the year was for Terrell Edmunds to cut his teeth in that role, but he ended up starting due to Morgan Burnett’s injuries, and so the veteran slid into that job, much to his chagrin. The first man up to replace him when he got injured was Nat Berhe, but after Berhe went on injured reserve, Sutton stepped in.
Finally, in a late-season game against the Los Angeles Chargers, with Berhe on injured reserve, Burnett out with an injury, and Sutton not dressed for non-football reasons, they turned to rookie Marcus Allen, seeing his first action of the season, to be the dime.
After the draft, Mike Tomlin talked up Allen and the opportunity sitting before him to seize that job as the dime back. Right now it pretty much would be either him or Sutton, and their preference is safety, though Jordan Dangerfield could also be in the mix.
The packages that defenses run depend so heavily on what the offense is doing, and that in itself is driven by game circumstances. The Steelers had the lead or a share of the lead in the fourth quarter in 14 of their 16 games last season, so that contributed to the high usage of the dime. Keep that in mind when answering this question.