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2022 South Side Questions: Where Is It All Going Wrong On Defense?

The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, now into the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.

There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in the scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.

Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.

There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: Where is it all going wrong on defense?

I’m sure any one of you at the start of this season would have signed up for any game against the Cincinnati Bengals—or perhaps anybody else—in which the offense scored 30 points. Nobody came into the year owning any illusions that that was going to be a frequent occurrence.

It just had to be that the offense scoring 30-plus points would have to be more common than the defense giving up 30-plus. So far on the season, it’s a 1:3 ratio in favor of the defense giving up 30-point games, with last night’s first 30-point game by the offense negated by a dud on defense.

And yet this was the game in which the defense has been the healthiest it’s been since the season opener. Theoretically, this should have safely been their best or second-best game of the year just based on who they had at their disposal.

So where is it all going wrong? Or at least where is it going wrong worst? Inevitably there will be multiple fault lines running through and there obviously isn’t going to be time to patch them all up, but if you could pinpoint the biggest source of the issues, where would it be?

Is it still about the defensive scheme? About playcalling? What about weaknesses in personnel, and where? Last night, the run defense did hold up, limiting the Bengals to 62 yards on 24 attempts with no run longer than eight, but the pass defense, outside of a fluke play here and there, was a mess, allowing over nine yards per pass attempt.

By far the most damage in terms of down-to-down production came from wide receiver Tee Higgins, who picked up 148 receiving yards on nine receptions. But it was running back Samaje Perine who found the end zone three times on his four receptions.

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