Comparing The Steelers 2017 And 2008 Defenses Through 10 Games Played

With it being a mini by week of sorts, I figured today would be a great day to check in on how the Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 defense is currently measuring up to the 2008 unit through 10 games played.

As you can see by the key defensive statistics below that I like to follow when it comes to measuring NFL defenses, the 2017 unit still trails the 2008 unit in several categories.

Perhaps the biggest discrepancy between the two units is the total amount of explosive plays allowed as the 2017 Steelers defense has allowed more than double what the 2008 unit did through 10 games played. With 7 of the explosive plays allowed by the 2017 Steelers defense being runs, that has resulted in their yards per carry average being inflated still. Additionally, those extra passing explosive plays allowed by the 2017 unit mostly explains why they are behind the 2008 unit in the yards per pass attempt allowed and adjusted net yards per pass attempt statistical categories.

Make no mistake, this 2017 Steelers defense is still playing great this season and if they can start getting a better grip on the explosive plays allowed in their final six games they still might be able to rival the 2008 unit in several of these key stats. With that said, the 2008 Steelers defense only allowed a total of 27 explosive plays all season and thus the 2017 unit has already surrendered five more than that with six games remaining to be played.

Stat Category Through 10 Games Played2008 Defense2017 Defense
3rd Down Conversion Rate Allowed37.133.3
Yards Per Rush Allowed2.964.08
Total Sacks3634
Total Turnovers1516
20+ Yard Plays Allowed1533
Defensive Points Allowed13.915.2
Yards Per Pass Attempt Allowed5.76.7
Adjusted Net Yards Per Pass Attempt3.74.4
Successful Run Play Rate Allowed34.536.6
Successful Pass Play Rate Allowed39.338.8


Game2008 QBs Faced2017 QBs Faced
1Matt SchaubDeShone Kizer
2Derek AndersonCase Keenum
3Donovan McNabbMike Glennon
4Joe FlaccoJoe Flacco
5David GarrardBlake Bortles
6Ryan FitzpatrickAlex Smith
7Eli ManningAndy Dalton
8Jason CampbellMatthew Stafford
9Peyton ManningJacoby Brissett
10Philip RiversMarcus Mariota

  • Matt Manzo

    Run defense is a yard worse, too. And the QBs faced seems about the same, Rivers might tip the scales, though.

  • SteelersDepot

    Like I stated, that is mostly due to those big running plays allowed this season. Remember, one was 90 yards.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Thank you for the comparison! All in all they are pretty comparable.

  • Nathanael Dory

    Man that 2008 defense was something else!!ouuufff!!!

  • Chad Weiss

    This defense is gonna be special.They put a lot of real estate into it and it’s starting to show.
    For the first time in a long time I can’t wait to see these players on defensive side of ball play everytime they take the field. This is a dangerous team when they get the lead..

  • Jason

    This years unit has allowed more than twice the number of 20+ yd plays. That’s the difference. Miscommunication and undisciplined (Burns) on the back end.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Good stuff Dave and it is nice to see how close they match in a lot of categories. I wonder, do you happen to have missed tackle numbers from 2008 or are those not easy to come by? I ask because of how much we harp on this current roster missing tackles especially over the last 2 or 3 seasons.

  • Kevin Artis

    I would like to see how many rookies or second year players were on that 2008 defense. I would think it would of been very few if any. Lebeau didn’t like playing rookies

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Hard to have a top D with that many plays over 20 and giving up over 4 yards per run.

  • Roger Wesley

    the 20+ yard plays is what is troubling. we give up too many big plays tackling needs to get better

  • Doogie

    seems like 2008 faced better QBs by some margin.. Payten blows the curve for 2008. He was still Elite then.

  • Doogie

    78/79 steelers had 5 shut outs? maybe 75/6 . One of the years they didnt win SB in the middle, they actually had the better defense but lost offensive players.. Not sure year. The 5 shutouts came after a 1-4 start I think. Was listening to “Their Life’s Work” on Audiobook. Good book.

  • DoctorNoah

    That was back in the day when DB’s could pancake receivers; unnecessary roughness was only called for dismemberment or bleeding jugulars; and a 1:1 TD:INT ratio was considered excellent. Was also before global warming, back when football strategy meant “ run straight up the middle”. 😉

  • Matt Manzo

    Oops! Missed that part!

  • ryan72384

    Sorry the 08 defense was better and its not even close in my opinion. Teams literally could not run on that defense. It was nearly impossible. I honestly never thought teams were going to score against us that year. Wood and Harrison on the outside were terrifying. Safety play was ELITE. That’s a big reason we have given up so many big plays. Outside of Sean Davis our safeties are sooo bad. Ryan Clark and Troy were an insane combination of athleticism and smarts. The only guys on defense now that I would start on thst team would be Cam Shazier and Haden. That’s it. Farrior and Shaz would be a ridiculous MLB combo. The numbers this year are misleading if you ask me. Great defenses don’t get torched constantly like our defense does. Are they fun to watch when the passrush is getting after it? Sure. But they are an up and down mess sometimes. Tackling is still bad, communication issues all over the place and I’ve seem teams several times impose their will on this defense and run it down their throats. They just don’t feel dominant. I know they are really good sometimes but nothing like the 08 boys.

  • Dan

    I can say Woodley for sure was a second year guy. Can’t remember off hand if Timmons had secured the starting role yet.

  • Dan

    It’s a much improved unit, but 2008 it ain’t. Too many big plays. But the arrow is pointing upwards. I’d say add another good safety and maybe a more reliable OLB than Bud, and you would have an elite unit here.

  • Jason

    for some reason I read that as 2017 vs 2016 and I was like how the hell are they worse then last year, then I actually ready it 2008 was all time, so they are doing pretty good

  • RyanW

    Arrow is definitly pointing up for our Defense. Just gotta clean up some stuff and we’ll be fine. Artie is still young and as such makes young guy mistakes but he’s still improved some and he needs to pick it up in the run defense more.

  • Steve

    If you look at the quarterbacks Steelers played in 08, they were much better than what were playing against this year.

  • Steve

    It was 1976 when the Steelers started 1-4 and Terry Bradshaw got hurt in the 5th game after Turkey Jones slammed him to the Turf. The Steelers would shutout 5 of the next 9 opponents and only one team (Houston Oilers) scored a TD in the last 6 games. The top 2 running backs (Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier) both had over 1000 yards and were both hurt in the AFC championship game and they lost to the Oakland Raiders who went on to win the SuperBowl. This was in the opinion of many the Best Steelers team ever.

  • capehouse

    Yeah I don’t think it’s even close to tell you the truth. Steelers ’08 defense only allowed one double-explosive TD too, a 65 yard TD to Reggie Wayne. The next longest TDs were a 34 yard pass and a 24 yard pass. This current defense has allowed a 90 yard rush, 57 yard pass, 60 yard pass, 61 yard pass and another 75 yard pass just this past week, all for TDs.

  • Jim Foles

    2008 Defense hit the Pats hard. knocked off Welker on a crossing route and took away Brady’s short game. Those crossing/pic plays kill the steelers. We focus on hitting Brady, Brady focuses on 3 yard crossing routes, no olb has time to get Brady when the short passing game is wide open..

  • Rich Stafford

    Doesn’t matter what version of the Steelers D you put on a field opposite Brady and BB. Steelers have not been able to stop them or even compete. As long as they trot out a 3-4 defense and try to play zone they have zero chance. BB will play 3-4 one week and 4-3 the next. Then he will play a hybrid after that, it’s why he is the best ever.

  • Conserv_58

    When Artie Burns finally plays like the first round pick that he is I will feel better about him.

  • Conserv_58

    The Steelers ability to shut down team’s running games was so good that year that teams barely attempted to run against them. Offensive coordinators would simply do away with their running game as an option because it wasn’t an option. Consistency and reliability was their calling card.

    This 2017 version has yet to become that good.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    IIRC, the 2008 defense was ranked number one across the board in the most important categories if not all of them, e.g. against the Run against the pass & points allowed. That year we were even ranked number one in special teams coverage units. That defense that year completely smothered Baltimore and San Diego beating those two teams five times collectively. And believe me I loved every second of it since I lived in San Diego at that time!!!