Prior to kicking off preseason action against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, HC Mike Tomlin took the podium Thursday morning to address the media to give his thoughts on training camp thus far and what he is looking forward to as the Pittsburgh Steelers gear up for their first live action of the 2022 season against another opponent.
When asked about the front seven of the defense and how he feels about that unit in comparison to last year’s unit that struggled mightily to stop the run, Tomlin said the past is in the past and he looks forward to what this revamped unit can do in 2022.
“Yeah, I’m not worried about what transpired last year,” Tomlin said during the press conference which aired live on the team’s YouTube channel. “I feel good about the collection that we have and what they’ve shown thus far in that area. Certainly. I expect us to be dominant.
Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers not only finished a league-worst in rushing yards allowed and yards per carry given up on the ground, but it was the worst season all-time in franchise history in terms of stopping the run. The losses of Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu prior to the start of the season along with the losses of Bud Dupree, Vince Williams, and other contributors along the front seven led to instability and consistency upfront. Opposing offenses ran wild on the Steelers throughout the season as they couldn’t stop a nosebleed at times, allowing multiple 150+ yard rushing performances.
However, Pittsburgh has made the effort to add talent on defense this offseason to remedy the poor play that occurred on the field last season. The team got back Alualu from a fractured ankle as well as added Larry Ogunjobi and Myles Jack via free agency and DeMarvin Leal and Mark Robinson via the 2022 NFL Draft. This added depth and talent upfront should help the loss of Tuitt to retirement and provide Pittsburgh with more capably bodies to put out on the field this season compared to last year where they were scrambling to field a competitive run stopping unit.
When a defensive unit has star littering all three levels with Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, the expectation should be a top ten defense in the NFL. Throw in guys like Jack, Ogunjobi, Alualu, Alex Highsmith, Terrell Edmunds, and Ahkello Witherspoon, and you should have a unit that challenges for that top ten ranking in the league, if not top five if they play to the level they are capable. Mike Tomlin understands this, and while expectations are high from him on his defense, the frankly should be given the talent they have as well as the standard of dominant defense the Pittsburgh Steelers are known for.