The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense has allowed only 34 points over the course of the past two weeks, or a little more than six points fewer than their average points allowed on the season (23.1, which ranks 22nd in the NFL; 17 points per game would rank fourth).
They’ve also held teams to two of their three lowest total yardage totals on the year in the past two weeks—even if one of those totals was still the 372 yards of offense that the Miami Dolphins put up on them earlier this week, and the other was still over 300. Even without the takeaways and sacks, however, there were still good signs.
“I think we came out and did a good job. At the end of the day, there’s still more points on the board than we wanted, so there’s always room for improvement and always room to get better, but I think we’ve progressed the past two games from that Buffalo game”, veteran outside linebacker Alex Highsmith told reporters yesterday via the team’s website.
One could easily argue that the efforts of the past two games marking an improvement says more about where they are coming from than it does about where they are heading, and frankly, that would be right. But improvement has to start somewhere.
The Steelers acknowledged earlier this week that they did struggle with the Dolphins’ offense early on, both in contending with the left-handed awkwardness of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and of the tough running of Raheem Mostert, but they were able to make adjustments against both throughout the game.
“We just know the guys that we have and we know the type of defense we can be”, Highsmith said of where he feels the unit could be heading. “It starts in practice every week. It starts with practice today. We’ve just got to continue to work at it and be our best selves”.
Pittsburgh has yet another big test upcoming against the cross-state rival Philadelphia Eagles, a road afternoon game. Philadelphia is 6-0 on the season and coming out of a bye week, ranking in the top five in both points for and against, as well as in yardage for and against.
They won’t face a more balanced team on their schedule, and even if the Eagles’ offense is oriented toward the run—they have 225 rushing attempts against 184 pass attempts—they certainly can’t sit back and play the run with weapons like A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith at wide receiver, and tight end Dallas Goedert has been a key threat this year, as well.