The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: There is still more pressure on the offense to perform in 2019 than the defense.
Explanation: The Steelers had a top-five offense last season, statistically. Four of their six losses saw the defense give up a lead, and they also gave up a lead in the tie. For the seventh year in a row, the front office has focused on improving the defense, and they may have finally done it.
The defense only needs to be competent. That is what the game has become today. if the additions of players like Devin Bush and Steven Nelson can help the defense become competent, and hold a few more leads in the fourth quarter, make a few more plays here and there, that’s a low enough bar to manage.
The offense still has the pressure of needing to be one of the very top units in the NFL, and that’s without having Antonio Brown in the fold this year. The general expectations of year-to-year performance, converging with the need to replace one of the greats in the game today, unequivocally tips the balance of pressure on the shoulders of the offense for the 2019 season.
The historical weight of the franchise, however, lies on the shoulders of the defense, as does the knowledge that, for the past half-decade, the offense has pretty much held up its end of the bargain while the defense has lagged behind. It’s time for the violent side of the ball to finally rise up to the level that is needed.
The defense is a whack-a-mole of issues. They lead the league in sacks but then only have eight interceptions. They improve their tackling but they give up the biggest plays at the most inopportune times.
It’s all about who makes the plays. The offense has been the side that has made the big, game-changing plays for the Steelers for years now. The defense’s contributions in that area have been few and far between, and rarely in significant moments. The pressure is on them to change that.