Though injuries are a factor in the fledgling performances of the Steelers defense, there are other factors contributing to the unit looking more like the "Still Trapped" than a "Steel Trap."
A few adjustments need to be made, including the implementation of the above-referenced All-Pros. A few others include:
IMPROVED PLAY ON THE FRONT LINE
The down linemen—"Ziggy" Hood, Brett "Deisel" Keisel and Casey Hampton—have played well in spots, but they're not showcasing the type of consistent physicality and leverage at the line of scrimmage in which fans have become accustomed.
While Hood and Keisel mostly have held their won, most fans should be dissatisfied with the play of Hampton.
Hampton has never been as great in the pass-rush as he is stuffing the run, but even in the latter specialty, it's an unsettling sight to see the beefy tackle tossed completely out of a play.
Though Darren McFadden was the first back to truly torch the defense—his game-breaking touchdown run opened the Raiders' scoring—gap control hasn't been consistent.
Tackling at all levels has arguably been worse.
GETTING PRESSURE AND FORCING TURNOVERS
These two go hand-in-hand, and a lack of pressure has allowed both Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning to pick apart the secondary. Able NFL passers with time to throw and the luxury to follow through on their mechanics are pinpoint throwers, and the team's defensive backfield has been victimized by quarterbacks with clean jerseys.
It's not all about the play upfront—safety communication should improve with the return of the Troy-Clark combo, while the corners are leaving too much cushion on zones and not wrapping up on tackles.
Still, with additional pressure on the passer will come improved secondary play and more turnovers. Havoc in the backfield creates fumbles and promotes haphazard passes—and bad throws get picked.
So, how will the team get that pressure?
Certainly, Harrison's return will aid the effort. The Harrison-Woodley duo put a great strain on both edges of the defense, as they're two stud linebackers who have great synergy as a pair.
Yet, more can be done. The free blitzers are becoming exposed too often on pre-snap hard counts, meaning that microseconds off the snap may not mean as much to the defense as a good poker face, patience and deceptiveness.
The team also can do a better job of mixing up its blitzes, both from the inside (where there has been more success) and the outside.
GETTING PRESSURE WITH STEVE MCLENDON
As a last point regarding the pass-rush, the defense should be starting Steve McLendon and/or giving him the vast bulk of snaps at nose tackle.
Not only did he campaign thoroughly for the starting position with his outstanding preseason but McLendon also acts as a greater force in the pass-rush—a young buck who's ready to lower his horns and meet the quarterback.
In the preseason, teammate Maurkice Pouncey paid homage to the up-and-comer:
He can generate a pass rush at nose guard, that’s hard for nose guards. He's got speed. And for him to be that size and not fat like all the other ones, he can move in there and still have the same kind of strength they do.
Many are the fans who are currently questioning the current coaching prowess of Dick LeBeau, including Bleacher Report's own Nick Dewitt.
Personally, I'm not ready to "nudge" the father of his own defensive system into retirement just yet, but...
If there is not dramatic improvement after the bye week, particularly if the team gets to full health, one has to wonder how much of it relates back to coaching scheme and adjustments opposed to players' age and skill.
Granted, the players have performed poorly. Particularly against the Broncos and Raiders, they tackled poorly, left gaping cushions in the secondary and couldn't win a man-battle in the trenches in the second half to save their lives.
Yet, at the start of each of those games, the defense played decently, if not well. Then, as the offenses adjusted, the defense seemed unable to come up with an answer.
Adjustments work both ways, and twice this season, Steelers fans have been left to wonder, "Where were ours?"