Even though the big names that are absent from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster this season are on the offensive side of the ball, much more attention has been paid to what needs to go on defensively in order for the team to take the next step. It certainly was no surprise when they used their seventh consecutive first-round pick on a defensive player, and they also spend on two priority free agents as well to bolster the unit.
While those new pieces have made their impact, to be sure, we are continuing to feel the presence of the established front seven, with players like Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, T.J. Watt, and Bud Dupree making plays.
The defense overall has been among the best in the league so far this preseason, and over the past two games has only surrendered a total of 13 points. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first preseason game were able to throw the ball around a lot late in the game and climb back in a losing effort, but the unit has more or less handled the Kansas City Chiefs and, last night, the Tennessee Titans. And that’s got their captain all excited.
“I don’t like to put too much stock into it, but if this is any [indication] of how we’re gonna play, it’s a good sign”, Heyward told reporters in the locker room following last night’s game, via the team’s website. “But that means we’ve got to continue to work, and keep putting it out there”.
Heyward himself had four tackles during the game and a sack, while Tuitt recorded two sacks, one of which provided the first points of the game via a safety. The second-team group was spearheaded by Tuzar Skipper, Ulysees Gilbert III, and Robert Spillane. Skipper and Spillane each had a sack, while all of them had at least four tackles. The two inside linebackers have five apiece.
Also important is that the defense was able to get off the field quickly. Over the span of six possessions in the first half, the Titans when three-and-out or worse five times. Their longest drive was a seven-play, 43-yard effort that stalled at the Steelers’ six and settled for a field goal. It was the only other drive until the fourth quarter with backups of backups in the game that gained 40 or more yards.
“I thought we got off the field fast. I don’t think we had a lot of long drives”, Heyward said of his starting unit. And he knew that by observation. “We’re on the sideline, talking more. I think that’s just success, and we’ve got to continue to keep doing that”.
Although it will be brutal for me to chart the offense, let’s hope there’s a lot more standing and talking for the defense this season, because it should mean that the offense is on the field and presumably doing good things.