The Pittsburgh Steelers’ strength of their roster has shifted over the past decade from the defense to the offense. They are hoping that the balance will be much greater this year—not because of losses on the offensive side of the ball, but because of the growth of the defense, both through addition and natural progression.
Players like Bud Dupree are the ones who have to step up for the unit this season. Dupree is in his fifth season and should, hopefully, have his healthiest year to date, which can translate to a career-high in terms of performance.
He might not get a ton of respect from the outside, but he does inside the locker room as a veteran guy, and he believes that the growing experience within the unit is going to go a long way toward making this defense the best we’ve seen in Pittsburgh since the early 2010s.
“A lot of guys are experienced now and we’ve been around each other for a while”, he told reporters earlier in the week. “People are coming into their own now. A lot of guys are hungry”.
One of the biggest pieces of the defense is Dupree’s running mate, T.J. Watt, who is entering his third year. He recorded 13 sacks and six forced fumbles last season, but really began to grow in the second half of last season, so many anticipate him being an even better player in 2019.
Others like Terrell Edmunds, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave are also on the younger side, entering no better than their fourth seasons, the former only going into his second year, so there is plenty of room for internal growth. But they didn’t leave it at that.
They also used veteran free agency to add some key players to the unit, namely cornerback Steven Nelson, coming over from the Kansas City Chiefs, and linebacker Mark Barron from the Los Angeles Rams.
“The new guys that we did bring in, they already came from winning organizations, so you know they already understand how the coaching is on winning teams and they want to win and make sure they get to that big game”, Dupree said. The Chiefs reached the AFC Championship Game, while the Rams participated in the Super Bowl. Both had their seasons ended by the New England Patriots, the former in overtime.
That’s the sort of performance the Steelers are hoping to return to—and better, of course—and from the players on up, they believe that this year they have the right combination of talent and experience. Will they translate into the necessary results on the field? That’s the question that has to be answered.