During his talk with the media on Wednesday, Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II made it clear that the defense did not play well this past season and that's one area that the team will surely need to focus on during the offseason.
"Obviously, we want to get better," Rooney said, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We slipped on defense in some areas this year, particularly in terms of stopping the run; we're not anywhere near the top of the league, which is where we've typically been and where we want to be. There's no doubt there's room for improvement there.
"We gave up too many big plays, there's room for improvement there. Whether it's getting younger or what other strategies we might use, we want to get better there. And that will be part of what we look at as the weeks and months go by here."
The run defense and big plays are certainly two areas that troubled the Steelers last season and the stats reflect it.
Against the run, the Steelers defense ranked 21st in both rushing yards allowed per game (115.6) and rushing yards per play allowed (4.27). It might surprise you to know that the defense only allowed 10 runs of 15 or more yards last season and that tied them with the Cincinnati Bengals for the best in the league in that stat. However, the average gain on those 10 runs was 40.9 yards and that ranked them last in the league. Five of those 10 runs were good for 48 yards or more and all 10 resulted in 409 yards gained, which was 22% of all rushing yards allowed by the defense. TEN PLAYS!!!!
On the flip side of that, the Steelers defense also only registered 35 run tackles for negative yardage and that tied them for second worst in the league for that stat. When you subtract the 10 kneel downs from that total, that averages out to way under one negative stop per game.
As far as big plays allowed in the passing game, you know that has been a sore subject with me all season as well. While the defense only allowed 46 passing plays of 20 yards or more on the season, 12 of them were double explosive, meaning 40 yards or more. Those are killer and usually results in drives ending in points if they didn't on the play itself.
In total, the Steelers defense allowed 17 plays of 40 yards or more on the season for 975 yards, or 57.4 yards per play. So, yes, merely cutting down on the double explosive plays allowed should be the biggest goal of the defense in 2014.