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Steelers Defense Essentially 12 Big Plays Away From Being Elite Through First Six Games

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has played well so far this season on the way to the team compiling a perfect 6-0 record. Even so, the Steelers defensive unit is far from elite status entering their Week 8 road game against the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, it’s fair to say that the defense hasn’t quite lived up to full expectations so far this season.

While the Steelers current defensive ANY/A (Adjusted Net Yards Per Passing Attempt) stat after six games is 5.1, which is fourth-best in the NFL, it obviously should be even lower than that. After all, the Steelers defense has registered a league best 26 sacks in just six games played in addition to right total interceptions. Those are strong numbers.

So, what’s wrong with the defense so far this season? For starters, big passing plays allowed. Not only big passing plays, but big passing plays that result in touchdowns. In total, the Steelers defense has already allowed three pass plays of 40 yards or longer on the season and two of them went for touchdowns.

Those three pass plays account for 159 of the 1,480 total passing yards allowed by the defense through six games played. Last season the Steelers defense allowed a total of six pass plays of 40 yards or longer with only one going for a touchdown. That one was against the New England Patriots in the regular season opener and without safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on the team yet.

How impactful are those three long pass completions from a statistical aspect? If those three long pass plays are eliminated completely, the Steelers defensive ANY/A number drops all the way down to 4.3, which would put them tied for the league lead with the Indianapolis Colts.

While not as bad, the Steelers pass defense has also had struggles against the pass on some third downs this season. In total, the Steelers defensive ANY/A stat on third down pass attempts this season is 5.4. Lost within that stat is the fact that the Steelers defense has allowed eight completions of 20 or more yards on thirds downs so far this season and none of those plays were in the previous discussion of being 40 yards or longer.

Those eight completed third down passes that gained 20 or more yards totaled 211 yards and obviously all moved the chains. To make matters worse, five of those came with the opposing offense needing 10 or more yards. To give those third down stats some perspective, last season the Steelers defense allowed 12 third down pass completions that gained 20 or more yards.

Outside of the 74-yard touchdown run by Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders back in Week 5 the Steelers run defense has been stellar. The Steelers pass defense isn’t far from being stellar as well. If the unit can stop giving up the double explosive pass plays for touchdowns and cut down on the third down explosive pass plays, it will make a world of difference. In reality, this Steelers defense is 12 plays away from being damn near elite his season.

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