There’s Every Reason To Be Optimistic About The Steelers’ 2022 Defense

We’re still six months away from seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense back on the field. With free agency, the draft, and an entire offseason, It’s far from a finished product. But I can’t help but be excited about this group and its ability to rebound after a difficult 2021 season.

The Steelers’ defense should be back in 2022.

That’s not just the Brian Flores’ hire talking either. Though make no mistake, what a home run hire that is. Flores is an incredibly bright defensive mind and coach who willed the Miami Dolphins on an incredible run the second half of the season. Talk about not losing a locker room. That group could’ve easily turned on Flores, but they didn’t, and nearly made a miraculous playoff run.

But my optimism existed before Flores joined the staff. The Steelers’ defense should flat out be healthier than it was a year ago. Tyson Alualu is back. Stephon Tuitt – maybe – joining him and the odds of the team playing musical chairs along its D-line again are low. Devin Bush another year removed from his torn ACL (it can’t hurt, at least). Joe Haden missed a month, T.J. Watt was rarely fully healthy, and Alex Highsmith battled issues the front half of the year. Of course, a new season means new players will get hurt, such is life, but the Steelers hopefully won’t be bitten as badly by the injury bug.

Even if they are, young guys who took on big roles in 2021 should be better prepared. Isaiahh Loudermilk, Tre Norwood, those guys aren’t wide-eyed rookies anymore. They performed well in their first-year and are quick answers if injuries do strike again. Loudermilk is already a solid base 3-4 end against the run while Norwood has natural coverage ability and instincts. Minkah Fitzpatrick won’t be moved around the way he was the first two weeks, causing him to look mortal for once, and the Steelers’ defense shouldn’t have as many new or moving pieces as it did a year ago. They’re also retaining all their studs like Fitzpatrick, Cam Heyward, and T.J. Watt.

But expect this team to do some moving and shaking. They have more money to spend in free agency than they have in a long time and should be adding at least a piece or two via the draft. Who and where that’ll be is anyone’s guess. An inside linebacker next to Bush would be a smart add. Perhaps a rotational, sub-package lineman who can get after the quarterback, especially if Tuitt does not return. Corner could be an area to address as would be safety if Terrell Edmunds hits the open market. There’s room and capital to improve this defense and the Steelers should take full advantage of that.

On top of all that, the Steelers have a great defensive coaching staff. For what they’ve done in Pittsburgh, Teryl Austin and Karl Dunbar have proven to be excellent coaches. Austin brought a turnover-minded focus to the secondary in addition to the team bringing in A talent – like Fitzpatrick – to fulfill that philosophy. Dunbar has developed the D-line and EDGE rushers for years now and doesn’t get the credit he deserves, filling John Mitchell’s big shoes the best way possible. Add in a defensive-minded head coach like Tomlin and the hire of Brian Flores, and you have a very solid core of guys. Front seven-minded coaches like Flores and Dunbar, secondary-minded coaches like Tomlin and Austin.

Will this defense be Blitzburgh? Maybe not quite to that level. But the pieces are in place to have a much better season than their underwhelming performance from a season ago. With an offense still highly questionable, Pittsburgh will need it, too.

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