Sean Davis: Defense Challenging Itself Not To Repeat Sunday’s Showing

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is heading into the bye week angry and annoyed. They held the Lions to just 15 points and kept them out of the end zone in spite of the fact that they had five trips inside the 20-yard line. They twice had first and goal at the four-yard line.

But quarterback Matthew Stafford still passed the ball all over them, and that is not sitting well during their week off, to stew over how they were torched, both defensive backs and linebackers alike. They are challenging themselves to assure that they do not deliver a repeat performance.

Pittsburgh entered the week as the clear leader in pass defense efficiency, averaging under 150 yards per game allowed, and also ranked among the very lowest in terms of yards allowed per passing play. They still sit second, but are now nearly 20 yards behind the Jaguars, having now given up an even 180 yards passing per game through eight games.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a big game, completing 27 of 46 passing attempts for 423 yards. Even though he was unable to capitalize on his ability to move the offense up and down the field by bunching it into the end zone a couple of times, perhaps he would be comforted knowing he has the defense frustrated with itself all the same.

Safety Sean Davis told Jeremy Fowler that the defense was setting a new challenge for itself heading into the back half of the year. “Not giving up 400 yards”, the ESPN reporter quotes him as saying. Entering Sunday’s game, the Steelers had not even allowed a quarterback to throw for 300 yards.

In fact, through the first seven weeks, they had only allowed two teams to gain even 200 net yards passing, and those were both in losing efforts with their opponent trailing throughout the game.

Two times their opponents recorded fewer than 100 net passing yards—with the extreme caveat that they lost both games—and four times overall the opposing offense recorded fewer than 150 net passing yards, with the Bengals the week prior mustering just 108.

Perhaps somewhat overlooked, on another note, is the fact that the Steelers have held opponents to under 100 yards rushing in six of their eight games, though of course they allowed over 200 in each of the other two. They have held four opponents to under 75 rushing yards.

But it is the wounds of the passing game from the Lions that sting at the moment. Nobody had done this season what Stafford had done to this unit, making them look quite bad at times in ways that they had not, with any sort of consistency, previously this season.

The more than 400 passing yards from the Lions is more than the Steelers gave up in any game in 2016. You would have to go all the way back to week six in 2015 to find the last game in which they were lit up in this manner—a game that they also won.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • I know they are talking about passing yard given up, but there are somethings I would like them to repeat, like no TDs allowed.

  • pittfan

    I’m glad to hear they take affront to the yardage given up. However, with a QB with a cannon arm like Stafford, when you play cover 2 and have your safeties get too aggressive, those 30 yard outside the numbers hole shots become 60 yard TD and you get to watch the Lions do their end zone celebrations.

  • derp_diggler

    The fact that the Steelers can give up less than 100 yards passing in two losses and give up over 400 yards passing in a win is a testament to how meaningless stats can be when taken out of context. However I do like that the defense is not resting on it’s laurels and is continuing to challenge themselves.

  • 6 ring circus

    Very surprised that the Lions didn’t punch it into the endzone once. I figure that was due to some kind of play-calling ineptitude, much like we see with the Steelers’ offense in the redzone. As the question was asked in another thread – exposed or not? I’d say somewhere in between. The Steelers only had the #1 passing defense by default…the effective running games of teams, teams playing from behind and becoming predictable, bottom rated NFL QBs, etc. Jacksonville is more deserving. The have a pair of legit corners and a couple of very good safeties.

  • The Tony

    The definition of bend don’t break

  • The Tony

    Play calling ineptitude in the red zone… Did you watch the Chiefs last night? My main gripe is their lack of use with Hunt in the red zone. It has been 5 weeks since he has scored a touchdown. Last night the Chiefs attempted a pass from Tyreek Hill from the 5 yard line that was intercepted. Another time from the 2, the Chiefs faked a sweep with Hill and with an over loaded left side of the field pitched it out wide to Hunt for a loss of 3. Can you imagine if the Steelers would only sparring use Bell in the red zone. Obviously we have our struggles, but can you imagine the uproar we would have with blatant stupidity of play-calling

  • Paul Rainey

    Maybe the secondary spent too much time reading their press clippings instead of studying game film. Then again maybe they just weren’t concentrating on football. Mike Mitchell starting means this secondary will never be superior, he is the weak link. As other teams start to attack him the passing yards against will go up.

  • FATCAT716

    Lol

  • FATCAT716

    That is the best stat outside of wins & loses of course

  • FATCAT716

    The only thing that stopped the lions from scoring is that steel curtain like defense. Please give credit where it’s due

  • David Shoff

    I’m not very smart in the technical aspects of defenses, but didn’t stafford go right at the weakness of the cover 2 defense and completely exploit it? If I am right, can’t we change up that defense a little more?

  • Chad Weiss

    Off topic but how much longer til Steelers have to decide if they are activating Sutton?

  • Chad Weiss

    That jags defense especially the front seven is sickening.They have the potential to be best ever imo that’s how good they are and now they got Darius. I’m hoping we don’t have to play them again this year. I can see their d line,three lbs,and two guys in secondary as pro bowlers this year.Thats potential to be eight pro bowlers on defense and it’s not far fetched

  • falconsaftey43

    You can throw out all the caveats you want, but bottom line is they are giving up 14.9 defensive points per game through 8 games. That’s the 2nd best mark in the league.

  • Aj Gentile

    Lol

  • Chad Weiss

    Lol

  • AndyR34

    Another brainless simp. smh

  • AndyR34

    Basically, they are not forced to activate him.

  • 6 ring circus

    You can’t refer to thjs defense as steel curtain-like, because that’s a week-in and week-out description. The real SC was stout all season long…they didn’t show up here and there…for a series, a quarter or a game. They handled their business all the time. Dont get me wrong, these boys can get after it on occasion but you don’t let Jacksonville and Chicago do what they did and call yourself even like the SC. Let alone give up +400 yards passing…nope.

  • 6 ring circus

    That Tyreek play was…well, that was funny.

  • pittfan

    Houston and their boy wonder are the #1 points per game offense at 30.7. They are also 3-4 in the W/L column. Pick your poison!

  • Conserv_58

    I like Mike Mitchell, but he’s been giving up too many big chunks of yardage to receivers. He’s biting on fakes, getting himself out of position or he simply doesn’t have the speed keep to run down fast receivers. Mike has to depend on making sure he takes the right angles in persuit of a tackle because he doesn’t have the catch up speed to run receivers down once they get past him.

    IMO, safety will be high on the Steelers’ draft board.

  • Conserv_58

    That is surprising to hear with Andy Reid as their HC. Is Andy calling the offensive plays?

  • Conserv_58

    Dang. I darn near forgot about Sutton. I hope he’s not Golson redux.

  • pittfan

    I think that’s a fair assessment. I don’t think he’s lived up to the expectations we had for him when he arrived. However he did bring some stability to an aging slow secondary. Tomlin is building a REALLY GOOD defense here that will excel for years to come and only get better as time goes on. Gay is being phased out. Lawdog is gone..Cam may be the senior statesman.
    BTW, what do you think about swapping Mitchell and Davis?

  • nutty32

    2 top notch games by Davis in a row. Here we go!

  • 6 ring circus

    For sure. I thought clock management was his issue.

  • FATCAT716

    All I’m saying is if you hold an down there like we did give my boy’s they due. In my opinion when that happens even if it’s just one game they were steel curtain-ish for a day. Those guy’s did great down there & deserves credit

  • 6 ring circus

    Ok…give you curtain-ish! For those goal line stands.

  • FATCAT716

    Lol thank you sir

  • Dan

    As a fan, it does make me nervouse to see the opponents march up and down the field, but so long as they keep points off the scoreboard I’m happy. A win is a win.

  • 6 ring circus

    Lol Sir?! I get it, just a couple Steeler fans voicing opinions. I hate it when it devolves into name calling. But when someone wants to go there, I know how to return serve…You’re good, my man

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    And part of the reason the Steelers allowed no TD’d against the Lions was Sean Davis literally RIPPING the ball out of the receivers hands in the end zone… AGAIN.

  • Brenton deed

    Great teams before they peak and when they begin to decline exhibit inconsistency.
    Mediocre teams never even “flash” greatness. I’m not saying the inconsistency is acceptable but long term I’m confident.

  • Brenton deed

    I don’t think you can draw a line through any “trends” about the defense except that they are inconsistent. The run defense has been good and also been gouged. Same now with the pass defense. The pass rush seemed less to be less effective against the lions and that’s part of why the pass defense suffered.
    There were a lot of “near misses/pressures/sacks” and, had a few of them “hit”, then the story might have been a lot different.
    I thought Dupree bent/turned the corner more than he has but still needs more – a good sign though. Watts almost disrupted a couple of plays but just missed.

  • Defender

    The problem with the secondary is that they are not wrapping up the ball carriers when they hit them. They go for the hard shot but that still allows the ball carrier to go forward or continue running.