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 best is yet to come for the Steelers’ secondary.
Explanation: The Steelers set pretty lofty expectations for themselves defensively last season, particularly as it pertains to passing defense, but they have not been able to match their projections so far this year, even if they have not yet lost a game.
The same group of people who performed at a high level last year are out there on the field this year. the biggest difference between then and now is the fact that the offseason was very unconventional and made it more difficult for units to grow cohesion.
Logically, cohesiveness will build over time in-season, and that is especially the case when you’re talking about a situation in which there were few opportunities for it in the offseason. You also have better and more elaborate scouting reports as the season progresses, so you are better prepared for what you will face.
There have mostly been just a few key mistakes here and there holding the secondary back from being a great unit. Too many double-explosive plays, too many third-and-long conversions. Yes, they let A.J. Brown get one on them last week, but that was more of a mechanical error than a miscommunication.
The numbers might get a bit better over the course of the season, but not significantly so. They are what they are at this point, which is good, but not great. They might get their picks, but they’ll also allow yardage and touchdowns and explosive plays.
And their schedule doesn’t get easier in the second half of the season in terms of the passing game. Joe Burrow is setting rookie passing records, and they play him twice. Gardner Minshew and Josh Allen are dealing. Philip Rivers can always have a big game. And there’s another game against Baker Mayfield on the road in which he’s bound to look less terrible than he did in the first meeting.
The Steelers were thrown against from some pretty mediocre quarterback play from Daniel Jones and the Broncos’ backup. Deshaun Watson tore them up in the first half. Carson Wentz had one of his better games in years. From a pure passing numbers standpoint, the second half will be tougher on the secondary than the first should have been.