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Defensive Versatility And Disguise Making Life Tough On Opposing Offenses

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a ton of talent defensively. And they’re going to use every one of those guys not only for the betterment of their team but to the detriment of the opposing offense. To force the opponent to spend more time on simply identifying what personnel are on the field instead of focusing on what kind of coverage or scheme the Steelers’ defense is running.

Joe Haden made that point in speaking to reporters today.

“It’s big for us,” Haden told reporters via video provided by the team. “Because of the film study. When you see people in different spots, you expect them to be there. And then they start switching, we start rotating, different guys, sending different guys. [The offense] just doesn’t really get a good read on our defensive scheme. So it just keeping people guessing and preparing for the unknown.”

Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen certainly was kept guessing in Week 1, struggling mightily in a year where he could be an MVP candidate. Pittsburgh’s defense held him and the Bills in check, limiting them to just one touchdown and 13 total points.

The defense’s biggest stands came on short fields. Twice, Buffalo started their drive at or inside the Steelers’ 35 yard line. Combined, they came away with three points. One drive that ended in a field goal, another that ended with a T.J. Watt strip-sack fumble, recovered by Cam Heyward.

Seventeen Steelers played 5+ snaps in the opener with another 16 of them playing 10+. That latter number included seven defensive backs: Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds (all who played 100% of the time) with Tre Norwood, James Pierre, and Arthur Maulet rotating in. They threw the kitchen sink at Allen with safety rotation and players aligning all over the field. It slowed down Allen, Stefon Diggs, and the rest of the offense.

That sort of disguise will remain important Sunday afternoon when the Las Vegas Raiders come to town. To combat an elite tight end like Darren Waller and confuse a QB like Derek Carr, a passer with immense physical talent but has struggled with consistency and some mental lapses. We’ll see what plan Haden and company employ to go 2-0 on the year.

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