Healthy Secondary Crucial For Postseason Run

Just when we all thought it was safe to go back into the water…

Last Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time in over three years fielded a fully healthy starting lineup on both sides of the football. Naturally, they lost two starters during the course of the game, one to a relatively significant, though perhaps not season-ending, injury.

Both of those injuries occurred in the secondary, so the Steelers have played about three fourths of the first two games of the second half of their season with an underpowered defensive backfield. Cornerback Joe Haden suffered a high, mild fracture of his fibula that figures to see him down for at least another couple of games, while safety Mike Mitchell suffered an Achilles injury.

At least with Mitchell, he was able to return to practice, even on a short week, so one would figure that he stands a good chance of being able to suit up and play in the Steelers’ next game. We should know more about that tomorrow during head coach Mike Tomlin’s press conference.

As for Haden, we should learn more about that tomorrow as well, though that one requires more patience. The injury only occurred a little over a week ago, and the optimistic scale was three weeks. Still, he will have had about five weeks by the time the Steelers play the Patriots.

Will he be up and running by then? And will he pick up where he left off? More importantly, how will Coty Sensabaugh look in the meantime? At some point this week, I’ll do a breakdown of his work from Thursday’s game as we get more into a normal weekly routine, but there was obviously good and bad in his first start.

The Steelers still have one of the top-ranked passing defenses, though it has been trending in a negative direction. They have given up six of their seven explosive plays of 40 or more yards in just the past three games, as well as three of their nine touchdown passes in the last two. Their yardage allowed has gone up, but they have also gotten interceptions.

Hopefully next week’s game, at home, against a struggling backup quarterback who was just shut out, will be something of a get-right week for a secondary that has begun to show chinks in the armor, and that has suffered some casualties.

The Steelers without question need this back end to be running at full capacity by the time the postseason rolls around, as it was arguably their single biggest issue in the playoffs from last season, or at least their most problematic position group.

Artie Burns and Sean Davis, I think, both had down games, even though the latter had an interception. Mike Hilton was beaten for a big play or two, though he, too, picked off a pass. They need to come out and start playing better from snap to snap than they have been the past few games.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • srdan

    I’m not sure I agree.

    How this secondary performs is directly related to the pass rush. When we don’t get pressure no matter who is back there gets exposed. In my opinion it matters less if it’s Cody or Haden, than it matters that Cam and Tuitt each get to double digit sacks.

  • pittfan

    Without a doubt the 2 are related.

  • srdan

    It’s a team sport and of course they are related. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t pretend like Artie and Haden are Harris and Talib. Pass rush matters a lot more to our team (bad example this year, haha). That is why it’s peculiar when they stop rushing the passer schematically.

  • SeventhHeavan

    True but the problem in my opinion are the overrated Dupree and Watt. They just can’t get to the QB. Tuitt and Heyward are doing their jobs well.

  • srdan

    Agree to a point. I think Watt isn’t over rated. He isn’t the pass rusher we need right now, but overall he is the player we need.

    Dupree looks the part but plays like he is still in college.

  • Any word re whether they’ll activate Sutton? What’s the deadline and what are the options?

  • FATCAT716

    Just watched a video of Haden riding a bike very positive

  • Steve Johnson

    The pass rush has exactly nothing to do with the secondary when a WR is that open and no Defensive Player within 10 yards. To me, that’s the result of a blown assignment .

  • Steve Johnson

    I think Dupree is Overrated; Watt? I would give the kid another year first. Dupree? Still has one Pass Rush Move, the Bull-Rush.

  • SeventhHeavan

    I concur Steve. Just being a little harsh on TJ. Still a rook.

  • Chad Weiss

    Watt was right there w his hands on qb before he went down for three of those sacks,finished a heyward sack ,had an insane pass breakup he intercepted and blocked a field goal as well as many tackles.H e may not be in the books for any sacks but he played fairly well.

    Dupree on other hand I wouldn’t say is overrated cause everyone knows he isn’t playing well. He don’t play to whistle,looks weak on field ,gets pushed around like a rag doll,has zero pass rushing moves,doesnt help on tackles to where he stands there if dude looks wrapped up. All that dude has is hustle and he has looked bad enough to where if he don’t come on strong here at the end I wouldn’t doubt he don’t get a fifth year extension

  • Milton Farfara

    People shouldn’t be down on Watt. First we’re talking about a rookie, more importantly though he’s being asked to drop into coverage over 30% of the snaps he plays. So please people factor that into you’re quick judgements of on of this year’s best olb rookies. Oh yeah don’t forget about the splash plays he does make including those on special teams.
    GO STEELERS! ! !