Training Camp

Through Two Practices, Steelers’ Defense Is Stealing The Show

Defense wins championships. They’re also the star of the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp. The first two days anyway. If you want to sum up how the first pair of practices have gone, you can sum it up in two words. Defense dominates.

Some of that is to be expected. Pittsburgh’s defense is supposed to be their strength with an offense still learning and growing and figuring it all out. But the 2022 Steelers’ D isn’t exactly the 1976 Steel Curtain, the greatest defense in NFL history. They have their own question marks and sorting out. Yet they’re succeeding despite the fact these have been padless, no-tackling sessions, situations that generally favor the offense. Running backs can’t be tackled, receivers know they can’t be hit, and pads or not, quarterbacks can’t be touched. But this defense is balling out.

Through two days, they’ve already intercepted four passes. UDFA rookie Carlins Platel had one to finish practice on Day One, with Devin Bush, Chris Steele, and Robert Spillane picking off passes yesterday. Justin Layne has made plays on the ball with a diving breakup against Anthony Miller Wednesday and a dropped interception during seven shots Thursday. James Pierre, feeling the heat of a potential battle against him, had a breakup on a long throw for Calvin Austin III yesterday. They were competitive in the first edition of seven shots yesterday, narrowly losing 4-3 on the final tiebreaking play. Heck, they even stripped the ball out of Najee Harris’ hands at the very end of a run yesterday. That’s a dude that simply doesn’t fumble the football. Again, defense is the strength but we’re talking about Platel, Steele, Spillane, Layne, Pierre – not exactly household names among the defense. Make no mistake, stars have made their plays too like T.J. Watt being his usual wrecking ball self on Day #1.

The pass defense has made plays that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. There were several would-be coverage sacks yesterday, plays where quarterbacks went through all their progressions and then some, others where they tucked and ran with it, thanks to great back-end coverage. If sacks were a thing in camp, the Steelers would have several of them already.

Of course, there’s likely to be ebb and flow over the next sixteen practices. At some point, we’ll come back and talk about the great day the offense had. None of this is final, none of this is to conclude anything about how the season will go. I’m just telling you where things are at, not necessarily where they’re headed. But two days in, Pittsburgh’s defense is swarming. And the offense is looking for answers.

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