Adrian Peterson ran through the heart of the Steelers defense Week 4 in London - @CJZERO
For all the grief the offensive line, run game and turnover margin get, the biggest and most concerning culprit of Pittsburgh’s 0-4 start is the defense.
It still sits at No. 10 in the league in overall defense, allowing 321.8 yards per game, but that is a big step backwards for a defense that led the league in that category each of the last two years.
To be clear, this is still an above-average defense. But coming into the season, Mike Tomlin surely expected the defense to be strong enough to carry the Steelers at times. And that is cause for major concern.
The Steelers have heard about its aging defense for several years now, but is it finally catching up to them? The front office has tried to reload in recent years, but defensive draft picks haven’t panned out the way it had hoped.
2012’s top defensive picks were a complete swing-and-a-miss. Sean Spence hasn’t played a professional down because of injuries, while Alameda Ta’amu ran into trouble with the law and is now on the Arizona Cardinals.
Ziggy Hood, Jason Worilds and Cameron Heyward should have bigger roles on the defense by now, but they haven’t developed quickly enough in Lebeau’s system.
These draft struggles have set the defense back a few years. The Steelers were the oldest defense in the league to start the year, but that wasn’t supposed to be an issue.
True, it is Adrian Peterson, but running backs didn't use to run right through the heart of the Steelers defense like he does in the video above.
Whether it’s age or not, Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t the same dominant unit as before. It’s main trouble has been getting to the quarterback.
A grand total of four sacks through four games goes along with the previously mentioned zero takeaways. At the current pace, the Steelers will break franchise records for fewest sacks in a season (current pace is 16) and most points allowed per game (27.5).
The other concern on the defense is its inability to stop the run. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The Steelers ranked No. 1 (in rushing yards allowed) four times this century. They were No. 2 twice, including last season, and No. 3 four other times since 2001. Today, they stand 25th against the run. The only time they finished a season lower than that since the 1970 merger came was in 1988 when they ranked 28th.
That 1988 team, which finished 5-11, owns the franchise's worst record since 1970. Right now, the Steelers don’t look like they will get to five wins.
The defense's performance so far this season has been the most disappointing because that's the thing the Pittsburgh Steelers were counting on most to carry them to the postseason.