With a young quarterback room and financially, a cheap offense in the NFL, the Steelers’ intentions for success are clear: building through defense. The Steelers history is filled with legendary defenses and defenders, which the current management is seeking to divert back to with the re-signings of Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt.
“I’m looking at the defense, which despite having a great deal of star power had a little struggle last year against the run,” he said. “And how are they going to mend that this year? It was a problem last year.”
The Steelers’ dead last run defense was indeed abysmal, and cost them more than a few games. Tyson Alualu’s injury, as well as Stephon Tuitt’s absence, had great bearing on the drop-off since 2020. To answer the question of how the Steelers are going to mend, it’s going to be a mixture of better injury luck and hoping the signing of DT Larry Ogunjobi and MLB Myles Jack and drafting of DE DeMarvin Leal make an impact. The current coaching regime has proven plenty capable of constructing an above average run defense in past years granted the adequate talent, suggesting that the problem stems from personnel.
“Certainly you’ve got T.J. Watt, an outstanding pass rusher. They have star players on that defense, but can they tighten up on the defense, especially in a division where we know there is firepower and you might have an offense that, and let’s be honest, might not score as many points because you have an unfamiliar quarterback situation now,” Baldinger continued. “The defense, especially against the run, is gonna have to tighten up.”
Tightening up on defense is indeed the secret recipe to a revamped run defense, which the coaching addition of Brian Flores is hoped to accomplish. In a division with Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson, it is indeed a requisite for the Steelers to have the defense to combat their offensive firepower.
At face value, it is indeed horrifying to have a defense coming off a dead-last ranking run defense. That said, context matters, as the Steelers’ injury luck in 2021 certainly makes it an outlier year. As Baldinger stated, this defense is filled with high-end talent, and the sky’s the limit for them granted better luck.