NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp is well known for his jabs at the Pittsburgh Steelers defense being too old and too slow, but fellow analyst Shaun O\’Hara and Donovan McNabb both said that they don\’t buy into that on Thursday.
O\’Hara said that age isn\’t a good indicator of success with the Steelers, but instead, he thinks their success in 2013 depends on the health of the team overall and their offense more than anything else.
“The first thing that I\’m concerned about for the Pittsburgh Steelers is really the health aspect, because they were injured on both sides of the ball,” said O\’Hara. “But to me, I\’m really looking at Todd Haley, because when you look at this team, they had the best ranked defense last season. So Dick LeBeau, he\’s walking into the meeting room with Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley, and he\’s saying, \’what more can I do?\’
“So it\’s on Todd Haley. He took over for Bruce Arians and the big-play production for this offense dropped. In 2011, they had 69 big plays and last season it dropped down to 57. So I think he\’s got to improve that big play for the offense with Ben [Roethlisberger]. And the second thing is the run game. It slipped down to 26th. They only average 96 yards per game, so they\’ve got to do a better job on offense.”
As far as McNabb\’s opinion goes, he too isn\’t concerned about the age of the Steelers defense, but like O\’Hara, he also thinks injuries are the biggest concern for them heading into 2013 more than anything else.
“When you look at the overall Steelers offense and defense, yes, right now they\’re the oldest defense in the league, but, yes, injuries play such a major part in this game, and I think if the guys are there healthy throughout the season, we may see these Pittsburgh Steelers make it to the playoffs,” said McNabb.
Later in the segment both O\’Hara and McNabb were asked where they thought the Steelers rank currently in the division. O\’Hara said that he thinks the Steelers are still the third-best team in the division behind the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals while McNabb thinks they are the second-best team behind Cincinnati.
“I think they are the third-best team in that division and here\’s why,” started O\’Hara. “They cannot protect Ben Roethlisberger. He\’s the most sacked quarterback since 2004. He\’s been sacked 100 more times than any other quarterback in that amount of time.”
While both O\’Hara and McNabb had strong arguments as to why the Steelers won\’t likely win the division this season, O\’Hara fails to realize that Roethlisberger had his lowest sack per drop back ratio of his career in 2012. He also fails to realize that the Steelers quarterback was headed for perhaps one of his best seasons ever prior to getting injured in the Week 10 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
I agree with both as far as the health aspect goes as the Steelers are not terribly deep on both sides of the ball, but in reality, the same can be said about the other 31 teams in the league. In addition, I too think that the onus is more on the offense than the defense this year.