Pittsburgh Steelers' Biggest Concern Is Pass Defense
After the 20-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steeler's fans, as expected, are overreacting. That's just how it goes when you have a die-hard fan base. Most of the blame goes to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, and rightfully so. Others blame Ben Roethlisberger and some blame Mike Tomlin. I think the entire coaching staff as a whole is to blame.
It's only one game, however, and the Steelers are still one of the better teams in the NFL. But there is a big concern I have for this team: The Steelers pass defense is quickly becoming something that might hold this team back from winning the Super Bowl this year.
The NFL is a passing league, and that concerns me a lot; the Steelers haven't faced that many good quarterbacks this year, yet they still have looked mediocre at best defending the pass.
Every week, we hear that the opposing team won't be able to run the ball and that the Steelers don't get the ball run on them. While that is true, I'm not sure opposing teams should even be concerned about running the ball against the Steelers. The Saints had no intention of running the ball against the Steelers. They lined Drew Brees up in the shotgun with three-, four- and sometimes five-receiver sets, and threw the ball over 40 times. Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the game, but I still think it's the only way to beat the Steelers.
Brees went on to complete 34 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns on the night. In the second half, Brees completed 20 of 22 passes and led the Saints to 17 of their 20 points, which leads me to believe that the Steelers coaching staff must be one of the worst in the league at making halftime adjustments, both offensively and defensively. The Steelers did a decent job against Brees but the Saints obviously made some minor adjustments at halftime that allowed Brees to go 20 of 22 throwing the ball.
Looking back all the way to Super Bowl XLIII against Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers did a good job in the first half, holding the Cardinals to seven points. But in the second half, Warner threw for over 200 yards, and the Cardinals regained the lead.
Last year, Bruce Gradkowski led not one, but two game-winning drives against the Steelers, who made him and Louis Murphy look like All-Pros.
Last year, everyone gave the defense a pass because Troy Polamalu missed most of the year and the Steelers had replaced cornerback Bryant McFadden with William Gay. Now both Polamalu and McFadden are back and starting, but we're still getting the same results. Polamalu, had one of the worst games of his career against the Saints, getting beat deep in coverage and missing more than one tackle.
The last three games, the pass defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to have big games. Rookie Colt McCoy of the Cleveland Browns threw for 281 yards with a QB rating of 80. Chad Henne of the Miami Dolphins threw for 257 yards with a 94 QB rating. Then Drew Brees threw for 305 yards with a QB rating of 101.
Part of the blame goes to Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin. They continue to have their corners play eight and sometimes 10 yards off the ball, allowing teams to complete short passes the entire game. The Steelers play a safe coverage trying to prevent the big play. That's fine, but at the same time, if the opposing team continues to complete 4- to 6-yard passes, it still adds up the same.
The Steelers need to be more aggressive and press the corners with a blitz, the same thing that other defenses try to do the Steelers. Playing safe isn't always the best option.
This prevent-style defense could end up costing the Steelers a big playoff, however, especially considering that their opponent will most likely have one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
I just hope the Steelers aren't too arrogant to realize that they have a big problem to fix.
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