Any good machine works best when all of the parts of said machine are functioning to their fullest potential. When one of those parts breaks down, the machine might still work but it could also shut down altogether.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is no longer a well-oiled machine. It is not functioning at the once high level for which it’s accustomed. While some parts have tried to take up for the failing ones, the truth is, the machine is crumbling.
Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense is built around its’ four linebackers. When those guys aren’t playing well or just don’t have the ability needed, things start to sputter. While James Harrison has been “steady” since returning, I wouldn’t call his play “great” according to his own standards as well as those needed from the position.
Jason Worilds continues to be average at best but still does not live up to the standards needed by his position either. As always, the constant is Lawrence Timmons. He is not flashy and never has been nor will he, but he is solid in his job. The other inside backer spot has been a jumble.
Ryan Shazier has not been able to stay on the field due to injury while Vince Williams and Sean Spence each have positives and negatives which have impacted the stability of the position.
If the linebacking corps are struggling then the defensive line is downright awful. The only player making consistent gains has been Cam Heyward and now with Brett Keisel done for the season, the unit is only going to get worse. The one new part brought in, Cam Thomas, has failed miserably and now we will see more of second round pick Stephon Tuitt whether LeBeau and Mike Tomlin were ready for him or not.
As a front seven, the D-Line and LBs have generated just 21 sacks through the first 12 games and that’s good for just 26th in the NFL. The less pressure means the more time the secondary has to cover receivers and this is where the LeBeau defense gets exposed.
The defense has given up 42 plays of 20 yards or more which ranks them 11th in the NFL. Worse yet, they are tied for fourth in most plays given up over 40 yards with 11.This is not rocket science. If there isn’t any pressure, receivers are going to get open because the Steelers draft cornerbacks who are supposed to be able to tackle better then they can actually cover.
Now that guys like Ike Taylor and William Gay have to cover for longer periods of time, they aren’t going to be as successful. Cortez Allen is the poster child for this issue. He is a broken down part of the machine who can’t excel because he has to cover way longer than the Steelers ever thought he would have to.
Football Outsiders takes things a bit further… The Steelers give up 2.29 points per drive. That ranks them 28th in the NFL and ahead of Tennessee, Oakland, New Orleans and Chicago. Those four teams are a combined 13-35. Ouch.
In terms of red zone scoring, it isn’t much better for the Steelers according to Football Outsiders. Through 12 weeks, the Steelers rank 26th giving up 5.24 points every time an offense enters the red zone.
Keep in mind I haven’t even discussed the defense’s struggles against the run. They currently rank 11th which is pretty respectable but they give up almost 4.5 yards per carry and that’s the key number to look at here.
This machine that has been relatively consistent for so many years is not just broken and still running. It’s badly damaged and looking for a repair shop and I don’t see one for miles.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on game day on the Trib-Live Radio Steelers Pre-Game
photo courtesy jacksonville.com
I understand but what can you do? They attempted to fix the D but it hasn’t worked out. They took a DT with there 1st pick in 2009 and he didn’t fit what they wanted. NT is also an issue cause people didn’t respect Hampton quite enough to where people said “See Ya and don’t let door hit your a** on the way out” It’s easy for people like myself or any other fan to say “The Steelers should take this guy or go after this guy” but we are just fans and GM’s and Coaches of every team including the Steelers don’t care what player the fans want, they only take the best guy on the board regardless of position. For example last year just everybody I heard on TV or Radio or read on draft websites or Steeler websites and even my older brother said the Steelers should take Dennard. I didn’t cause of what I read on him. He got away with a lot of grabbing at Mich.St and would be to handsy at the line of scrimmage at times. When I read that I was like “are you people nuts why would want that guy on the team”. Now I didn’t have a problem with Shazier cause I feel he can be a part of the future for this team. More often than not the Steelers hit on LB’s and miss on corners and I think it’s based on this reasoning: LB’s are easier for the Steelers to pick cause more often than not once they are plugged into the lineup they succeed. You can say this team needs CB help but is it that simple? Sure a guy like Verrett has done well but I want to see if he can back up for at least the rest of his contract. In 2009 there were 36 CB’s taken, 2010 33 CB’s taken, 2011 39 CB’s taken, 2012 31 CB’s taken, 2013 29 CB’s taken and just this past draft 33 CB’s taken and the average amount of CB’s taken per year is 33 but how many of those CB’s were taken before the Steelers could get there hands on 1? My point is simple if you want to believe your a GM then think and act like 1, which means always have a backup option in case your 1st choice is taken. Right now there is 1 CB that is considered to be a 1st round pick and it’s Waynes of Mich.St. 3 Other CB’s are borderline 1st to 2nd round picks and you guys know the rest. But until every report on these guys come out and experts say what they think about certain guys we are just guessing and I don’t want that. I want fans to look at everything before making a decision on the guy they want the Steelers to pick.