The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
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 Steelers have stopped the leaks in their porous run defense.
Explanation: After a series of awful games, the Steelers’ run defense finally showed some signs of progress on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Lamar Jackson got a handful of scrambles in, but the traditional running game was limited, with Devonta Freeman rushing for just 52 yards on 14 attempts. Stopping leaks, by the way, doesn’t mean it’s suddenly above average, or even good. It’s just no longer a major liability.
The leaks have stopped, indeed, as evidenced by the fact that the Steelers did not allow a single explosive run on Sunday against the Ravens. In fact, they did a better job containing Jackson than most teams do, whose longest play was 13 yards, and most of which came early.
The addition of nose tackle Montravius Adams played a key role in that. There was one play in the second half in particular that stood out during which he displayed impressive athletic ability in tripping up Freeman for a two-yard gain on a play that last week would have probably gone for 20-plus.
While still not quite right, the linebackers, including Devin Bush, also had a more representative showing while Chris Wormley played a very good game. These are signs of a defense playing together as a unit, which is crucial in stopping the run.
It’s one game, and against an offense that lost all of its running backs before the season started. Yes, Jackson only gained 55 yards on the ground, but he only ran the ball eight times. He’s averaging a career-high 12 rushing attempts per game, and about 70 rushing yards per game.
And doing a decent, or solid, but certainly not excellent job against the Ravens, at home, doesn’t mean everything is better. They still allowed 198 yards to the Bengals, 159 to the Chargers, and 229 to the Lions. They’re allowing 4.8 rushing yards per play. That’s an antiquated stat these days, but in this case, last in the league, it’s indicative of how the defense has played in this area for a long period of time. One athletic nose tackle doesn’t suddenly fix everything.