There was a time not so long ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers were viewed as a team in possession of one of the most formidable offenses in the league, especially when measured piecemeal rather than collectively, based upon the stellar individual talents of standouts such as Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, plus Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and a few Pro Bowlers along the offensive line.
As recently as 2018, they had one of the most high-powered offenses in the league, with Roethlisberger throwing for over 5000 yards with more touchdowns than any Steelers quarterback had ever thrown before in a single season.
Things have changed pretty substantially in the two years since. Bell and Brown are gone. One can certainly argue that Roethlisberger isn’t quite the same, after missing most of the 2019 season following the tearing of three tendons in his throwing elbow. The offensive line has degraded, and even lost a couple of starters.
Following their dismal three-game slide, the Steelers are now outside of the top 10 in scoring, though the defense still ranks first in points allowed. The defense hasn’t been perfect either, but they learned last season how to shoulder the load. Defensive end Cameron Heyward believes that is what is required of them, no matter the circumstances.
“Whatever it takes as a defense. If our offense has a hiccup, we can still fight back through it. We’ve done it before”, he told reporters following Sunday’s game, via video of the interview provided by the team’s media department. “Whoever’s out there has to be responsible”.
“It’s about accommodating each other. It’s about having each other’s backs”, he went on to add. “Who’s to say the offense has to be perfect week in and week out? Who’s to say the defense, or the special teams? We’ve got to play together as a team. We’ve got to make sure that if one group surrenders points or doesn’t score points, we’ve got to work together. And these past two games, we haven’t done that. There’s a disconnect there”.
Of particular concern is the performance of the defense in the second half. They allowed the Bills to score three times in five second-half drives, while running out the final 7:11 minutes. The week before that, the Washington Football Team scored four times in the second half, including two touchdowns.
It is quite possible, if not likely, that the Steelers will need this defense to be elite, regardless of who is or is not available to them, if they intend to make a dent in the postseason. While they are locked into a playoff berth and likely to win the division, that doesn’t guarantee them any victories—just like their 13-3 regular season record in 2017 didn’t help them get past the Jacksonville Jaguars that year.