I wrote back in mid April how the Steelers cornerbacks did not get enough credit last season as they played the Dick LeBeau system pretty well. It seems everyone only wants to remember the loses against Saints, Patriots and Packers though. Most seem to forget that those three teams all have pretty good quarterbacks and all three indeed had pretty good games against the Steelers. Two of those three games were still very winnable for the Steelers.
The latest article by Football Outsiders takes a look at how the Steelers defense did against various numbers of wide receivers sets. The Steelers ranked 3rd in league in DVOA against sets that had 0-1 receivers, 1st against 2 receiver sets and 8th against 3 receiver sets, which they saw a 51% of the time according to the numbers. The defense also ranked first in the league in DVOA against sets with 4-5 receivers as well, which they saw just 6% of the time.
While Ike Taylor, William Gay and Bryant McFadden certainly had their moments last year, they do not get enough respect for their play last year. You can see why so many are wanting Taylor to return for at least a few more years to perhaps buy the young corners a little more time to learn the system. The Steelers defense is predicated on pressure, disguised blitzes and the ability to not give up the big play. Cornerbacks in the system are also expected to wrap up the receiver quickly on catches underneath and as whole they did that well last year. Keep in mind that McFadden missed several snaps due to injury and the Steelers were forced to play Anthony Madison at times in the nickel as Gay would shift outside when McFadden was sidelined.
The loss to the Packers was certainly hard to swallow, as they ran into a very good quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and a receiving group that was able to spread out the Steelers defense and more importantly make plays. That one game will not go down as one of the better performances by the Steelers secondary, but the Steelers still had a chance to win the game. The 2010 unit does not get enough credit and it is good to see them get a little before the 2011 season gets underway.