2017 South Side Questions: Game Edition – Matthew Stafford Secondary’s Biggest Test Yet?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Game Edition – Is the Steelers secondary’s biggest test to date Matthew Stafford’s arm?

I know I’m not the only person who is walking into tonight’s game against the Lions thinking about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary, and the generally strong numbers that they have as a group put up through the first seven games of this season.

I know many of us are wondering if their quality of performance to date is simply too good to be true, a byproduct of the quality of competition that they have faced, which, short of Alex Smith, has been rather unremarkable.

And I know that, in spite of the fact that the Lions have had their share of issues this year, I’m not the only one who views their offense, and quarterback Matthew Stafford’s ability to chuck the ball late in games, as a welcome test for this fledgling unit as they head into the bye week.

Virtually nobody throws the football more frequently than does Detroit, by the way. Stafford right now is on pace to throw 600 passes this year, which is on par with what he has been doing the past few years. He has thrown over 700 passes before.

So I think it’s safe to say that, contrary to what has happened in a number of their prior games, the secondary is going to be targeted early and often, unless they can find that early success and, somewhat ironically, force them to try to run the ball as well.

Joe Haden has been pretty quiet most of the year, and I mean that in a good way. Artie Burns has had a few gaffes here and there—most of which he has gotten away with—but his growth in coverage is evident. The introduction of Mike Hilton into the slot has been a clear asset.

With Sean Davis rounding into midseason form and Mike Mitchell Actually Not Being Terrible Despite What Many Think™, this looks like a good unit. But this might be their biggest test of the season so far, which means I’m excited to see how things turn out.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Alan Tman

    I agree this will be the best test of the season. The Lions in their dome will be a playoff measuring stick.

  • Lil Smitty

    Wasn’t Alex Smith and the unstoppable Chiefs offense the biggest test for the Steelers?
    The thing that the Steelers are going to have to resist doing is going into prevent defense if they get a big lead. Stafford is a gunslinger who flings the ball up and expects his receivers to come down with it. That will be the biggest test for the secondary today. The secondary though should be assisted by a pass rush. Two defensive players in the backfield on every snap will make the secondary look great.

  • RMSteeler

    Would love to see Hilton blitz early and often (relatively) when the secondary shows press or man coverage. Mike gets another INT!

  • RMSteeler

    I meant sack, but if he gets some early pressure on Stafford, he might bait him into an INT. At least causing one.

  • Dshoff

    I’m happy we are seeing a good qb. Better to get tested now and fix things then later in the season.