The run defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been a red-hot topic as of late, even dating back to last year’s abysmal rankings, as the normally rock-solid unit plummeted to the bottom of the league’s rankings. This season, at least thus far, the team hasn’t looked much better, allowing 142.7 yards per game, which ranks 28th in the league, all coming minus the reigning DPOY in T.J. Watt.
The last two weeks have shown it’s painstakingly obvious this area needs to be cleaned up, as in clock-killing situations late in losses to both New England and Cleveland, everyone knew the opposition was going to run the ball, yet the team could do nothing to stop it. Earlier this week, changes were made up front when starting nose tackle Tyson Alualu was replaced in the starting lineup by Montravius Adams. Earlier today, All-Pro and team captain Cam Heyward was asked about the changes, and what additional steps the team needs to make to shore up their deficiencies up front.
“Technique, not getting off blocks, assignments were really big,” Heyward said via Steelers.com. “There are things that are becoming more glaring, you take out some of those times where we didn’t tackle or we didn’t fit properly, it really exposed us and allowed the guy to get up to the second level. And you can’t have great backs at your second level.”
This early in the season might be a bit early to sound the alarm for the unit, especially considering the fact that they’re minus their best defensive player, not only on the team but arguably in the league. While the Patriots offense is very vanilla, the running game of the Browns is leading the league right now with 190.7 YPG, so it’s not shocking that it has had a certain degree of success.
The upcoming schedule is a bit daunting after the Jets game on Sunday, with powerhouse teams like the Buccaneers and Bills on tap. Whether Watt is back in time for any of those contests remains to be seen, but his presence in the lineup will go a long way in helping, as he’s a tremendous edge-setter. However, as Heyward said, if everybody focuses on their job, and doesn’t shy away from it, the team will prosper.
“It’s not something I’m going to run away from. It’s not one man’s job, it’s an 11-man job, I’ll say that every single time. Run defense is about everybody being a part of it, and we all have to be accountable for it.”