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: The Steelers’ defense is not as good as they have looked for the majority of the season.
Explanation: Prior to their loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers defense had been on a seven-game tear, producing takeaways seemingly at will, bottling up the big plays, and even coming up big in the clutch a time or two. Was it just a good run, or is it who they are?
While it’s true that this is a defense stacked with more talent on paper that they have had for some time, and they also haven’t been giving up big plays, the defense is still a unit with a lot of problems. They haven’t played many good teams, and even the competent teams they’ve faced have had their issues at the time they faced them.
For example, when playing the Indianapolis Colts, they knocked Jacoby Brissett out of the game. The Los Angeles Rams were in the middle of an unusual dry patch on offense that preceded their game against Pittsburgh. They’ve had some good luck.
And we can’t ignore the total package, which includes the defensive playcalling, the ability to relay those plays, and the defense playing as a cohesive unit. These all remain weak spots that will continually regress to the median.
This is a defense stacked with talent, including potential Defensive Player of the Year candidates in T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Devin Bush would probably be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year were it not for Nick Bosa, and Brian Burns continues to push ahead as well.
Arguably the two biggest differences this year, however, have been the complementary pieces. Watt is Watt, but the passing game, and the running game, is so much more potent with Bud Dupree playing at his best. The pairing of Steven Nelson to Joe Haden has made a huge difference. A seven-game stretch is not a fluke—certainly no more than a couple of missteps on the road to a divisional opponent.