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2020 South Side Questions: Is The Offense Better Than The Defense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Is the Steelers’ offense better than the defense?

Following a game in which the Steelers scored the most points it has had in a year and a half, and in which the defense allowed more points than it had in over a year, it seems like a fair time to ask the question: are we back to a point in which the offense is better than the defense?

Through four games, the Steelers are averaging nearly 30 points per game. That is obviously not sustainable. The defense is now allowing over 22 points per game. They have a good chance of lowering that over the course of the season as well.

In other words, in terms of putting points on the board, the offense is probably overperforming a bit compared to where they will finish and the defense is slightly underperforming. At least, that’s what it feels like. What is actually the case?

What is becoming evident is that the Steelers do have weapons, and Chase Claypool is developing into one of them—to state the obvious. He has already established that defenses need to respect his abilities or they will be burned.

And if you don’t focus on Claypool, then you have JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Eric Ebron to worry about. The running game can be effective in stretches (it helped close the game again yesterday), and the blocking has held up well overall.

The defense, meanwhile, has a mostly relentless pass rush, but even with five sacks yesterday, seemed to lag at key moments, especially in the second half. The cornerbacks are losing, both in zone and in man coverage.

Are we too confident in the offense? Are we too pessimistic about the defense? Which side of the ball is better—not which is performing better right now, but which is truly better?

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