Bill Cowher presided over the ‘Blitzburgh’ era of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense in the early portions of his tenure as head coach. They had some dominant defenses in the early to mid 1990s, but always seemed to lack the offensive counterpart to bring them over the hump until they finally forced Cowher to draft a quarterback.
Suffice it to say that he knows a thing or two about great defense and the Steelers, and how those two things have had a history together. And now, as a media analyst, he is seeing another great defense in Pittsburgh, one that is taking steps forward every year, even every week.
He started off talking about the defense during a CBS interview recently by highlighting one player in particular—one you might not think to start with. “I think Mike Hilton is one of the better nickel corners because he has a great feel for blitzing. They utilize him well”, he said.
“It’s a very veteran defense that has played together now for a few years and I think they have a good feel for one another. They put a lot of pressure on you”, he added. “Yeah, they have given up a couple of big plays but I give credit to some of the offenses. But, boy they’re a team that just constantly has, they will harass you, they put pressure on you, they force you to be patient. And, if there’s opportunities there, you better seize them because they come after you and they’re relentless in doing so”.
The Steelers are tied for the most sacks in the league at 20 despite having played one fewer game than the Los Angeles Rams. They have forced seven turnovers so far this year through four games, including six interceptions, four of them coming from the secondary.
The defense has not been as stifling as it had been for most of the 2019 season, but there are also different dynamics within the team. The offense is putting up a lot more points and controlling the ball more, putting less pressure on the defense to make every possession and every down critical.
That’s not to say that they don’t need to be better. By no means are they a finished product. Their 10 consecutive third down conversions allowed against the Eagles was an abomination—but also an aberration.
But this is a defense that can and will make plays. They will make offenses work for every yard, more often than not, particularly with their pass rush. Or, as Cowher said, they come after you and they’re relentless in doing so.
Baker Mayfield is next, and nursing injured ribs.