For most of the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers transformed into an offensive team. Generally, when you have a franchise quarterback, you’re going to tend to skew in that direction anyway, but in their case, the shift to an offensive-dominated approach coincided with a decline in performance, execution, and game-planning on the defensive side of the ball.
It took a number of years, including seven consecutive first-round pick and a disproportionate number of second- and third-rounders, with the sprinkling in of some key free agent additions, but it’s starting to look as though the Steelers might finally be working with a defense they can hang their hat on.
Just as they lose their franchise quarterback for the season. The same year that they trade away Antonio Brown and watch Le’Veon Bell sign with the New York Jets.
“This is a defensive football team, and that’s how they’re gonna win games”, former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher said during an appearance yesterday on The Fan. “It’s no longer the Killer Bs as much as we always had before. Where it was an offensive team that was complemented by the defense, this is a defensive team now that is complemented by the offense”.
While the defense has to work on slamming the door shut in the fourth quarter, they have done a nice job of getting to the quarterback and taking the ball away, and the run defense has been improving as well, though situational ball needs to trend north.
“They’ve got pretty good depth on the defensive line”, Cowher said in relation to Stephon Tuitt’s injury. “When you look at Hargrave and Alualu…I think they’ve got some pretty good depth right there. You’re not gonna replace a Stephon Tuitt—he was having a Pro Bowl year, no question about it—but I think you have other people who can step in”.
Where he really focused his praise and attention, though, was not on the front line or even the linebackers, but in the secondary, where they have three former first-round picks (two acquired via trade or free agency) in the group.
“That defense has played very well, and I think the defense on a whole is getting better and better because I think the people are starting to feel comfortable, particularly on the back end”, he said. “As Minkah gets in there with Terrell, Steven Nelson is working with Joe, and then Artie and Mike Hilton. It’s really been an impressive group in the secondary”.
Steven Nelson has been a big asset so far this year as their biggest free agent signing of 2019. He has solidified the right outside cornerback position, so hopefully he will be able to return to full health and play on the other side of the bye week.