Are the Pittsburgh Steelers the NFL's Most Overrated Defense?

Jesse ReedCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Carson Palmer #3 of the Oakland Raiders drops back to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2012 in Oakland, California. The Raiders won the game 34-31.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers used to be known for having the best defense in the NFL, but is this unit now the most overrated in the league?

After watching the Oakland Raiders impose their will on them in Week 3, it sure looks that way. 

The Steelers allowed Carson Palmer to pass for 209 yards and three touchdowns—an alarming set of statistics, given the fact that the Raiders aren't exactly stacked at the wide receiver position. Palmer completed the ball to nine different receivers throughout the game and he was kept relatively clean by his offensive line, which only gave up one sack. 

Darren McFadden also had a big day against the would-be "Steel Curtain" of the 2012 Steelers, rushing for 113 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries—including a run of 64 yards. 

This wasn't the first beating this defense has taken in 2012, either. 

The Denver Broncos also had their way with the Steelers in Week 1. Peyton Manning threw for 253 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions in that game, and he was only sacked twice. 

Everything looked fine and dandy the next week, when the New York Jets traveled to Heinz Field. The Jets couldn't do anything on offense, but given how inept the Jets looked again for most of the game against the Miami Dolphins in Week 3, their performance in that game isn't really a good barometer.

On the season, the Steelers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 53-of-87 passes (60.9 percent) for 600 yards with six touchdowns and only one interception. That works out to a passer rating of 99.78 (h/t 

Opposing running backs have rushed 70 times for 305 yards (4.36 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. 

Worse still is the fact that through three games, this defense has only tallied five sacks and created three turnovers. These aren't stats you associate with a top defensive unit in the NFL. 

I'm not ready to count them out altogether in 2012, though. 

James Harrison has yet to suit up. Troy Polamalu has been out the past two games. Ryan Clark missed the first game in Denver due to his sickle cell anemia. 

There is still time for this defense to come together and start playing like a unit. For now, though, it would be disingenuous to say the Steelers have a top NFL defense. It's mediocre, at best. 

Anyone who still believes otherwise is kidding himself. 


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