A veteran like Tyson Alualu sets a high bar. Despite the Pittsburgh Steelers forcing five turnovers, generating seven sacks, and holding a mighty offense like the Cincinnati Bengals to just 20 points in essentially five quarters of play, Alualu believes his side of the ball can still get better. Via The Trib’s Chris Adamski, Alualu spoke with reporters following today’s practice.
“I think just as competitors, the best thing leaving last game was understanding we can play a lot better than what we showed,” Alualu said. “Even as dominant as a performance as that was defensively. I think there’s a lot of areas where we can improve. And I think that’ll help as a unit play better all-around.”
In the clip, Alualu didn’t explain how exactly the defense can improve. On paper, Pittsburgh did a good job against an offense that controlled them in two matchups last year. Still, Ja’Marr Chase had tons of success Sunday, catching ten passes for over 100 yards and the game-tying touchdown while the Bengals’ offense found more traction late in the game. In the pass game, the Steelers did allow too many in-breaking routes off play action, linebackers getting sucked up and opening space behind them.
While the run defense was much improved, Joe Mixon found more creases and got more yards after contact and after being initially stopped than what could’ve happened. Minkah Fitzpatrick was still forced to make too many plays and saved a touchdown on a 31-yard gain Pittsburgh allowed on 4th and 1.
Alualu’s return to the Steelers certainly boosted its run defense. There’s a strong correlation between his presence and a stout Pittsburgh front and vice versa when he’s out of the lineup. The Steelers’ defense will need to play at a high level the rest of the way, a task that becomes tougher until T.J. Watt returns sometime around Halloween, but is necessary to pick up an offense that won’t ever be anything better than average and is far from that spot right now. They’ll face New England this weekend, a Patriots’ offense that mustered only seven points in a loss to the Miami Dolphins. Three turnovers, two fumbles and an interception were a main culprit in the poor offensive output. For a Steelers’ defense that just forced five against the Bengals, they’ll be turnover-hungry again in Week 2.