Steelers’ Defense Continues To Prove Its Dominance

It hasn’t been perfect for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. Missed tackles, communication breakdowns and some big plays allowed. But end of the day, they’re judged by one stat – points allowed. And man, this defense has excelled in that area.

For the year, they’ve allowed just 16.5 points per game, second best in the NFL. Over the last five, they haven’t given up more than 17 in any game, the first time they’ve done that since 2010 and one of four units to do so in 2017. And really, it’s a seven game streak considering 13 of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ points were courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger.

Use that sorta skewed stat and they haven’t had this points allowed streak since 2001. Before Tomlin, before Ben, before the Super Bowl runs in the mid-2000s. Heck, Kevin Colbert had just gotten his seat warm.

Thursday, containing a Titans’ offense that was so complex, so tough to prepare for wasn’t lost on the players.

“This is a short week,” Stephon Tuitt said after the win. “We didn’t have much time to prepare for a team like the Tennessee Titans. They run so much stuff out of their formations. For us to come here and beat them at our place in front of our fans, that means a lot to us. At the end of the day, our fans supported us and I want to say thank you to our fans. Also at the end of the day, our teammates did a great job on a short week to battle and give it everything they have.”

It’s a defense that ranks top five in several key categories. Points allowed, sacks (2nd), interceptions (tied 2nd), and their red zone defense is getting close to cracking that mark, jumping from near bottom in the league to top ten.

Again, not perfect. But in this era, it’s hard to be. The Steelers’ defense is really good and they haven’t touched their potential. A scary thought for opposing offenses.

“We try to be perfectionist,”Ryan Shazier told reporters. “We’re kinda mad at the 17 points we gave up.”

Best of all, it’s a varied defense. They don’t win in just one way. Pressure gets generated from all 11 guys. A dominant defensive line, outside linebackers who have flashed, an All-Pro ILB in Shazier and another in Vince Williams who is second on the team in sacks.

In coverage, they’ve blended a mix of man and zone. Cover 2 has been effective, like on Coty Sensabaugh’s INT Thursday night, and we went in-depth on how often they used man when it’s third and medium. There’s vets, rookies, everyone inbetween. And as corny as it sounds, a family who takes pride in the success of everyone else. It’s why they have a “family photo” after every interception, jumping on the fun of the league expanding celebrations to include teammates.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • AndyR34

    Alex, FWIW…I concur.

  • ryan72384

    They make me want to throw my remote through the TV at least once or twice every weekend but I haven’t enjoyed watching the defense play this mich since 08′ when every passing play seemed like a race to the QB between Wood and JH. And of course Troy bouncing around at the LOS and then sprinting 30 yards deep right before the snap. This defense is the fastest one I’ve ever seen in black and gold. Been a fan since 91′. Earliest I can remember.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Taking a next year view for development, I agree with Alex that this the defense can be very good with the stable of players currently in place.

    I think they could add another safety, especially with Mitchell being 30 and injured some.

    I also think if Dupree can’t show any more than this, they may need to add at least a pass rushing specialist (read: Carl Lawson would have been perfect).

    I think Watt is going to be scary in his second year – with a first season of experience, an off-season of strength building, just . . . sky’s the limit.

    But that’s next year..

  • Bryan

    It seems like so long ago that (I believe in 2013 and 2014 though not certain) we seemed physically unable to get any form of pass rush and any turnovers, like being last or near last in turnovers and sacks and setting franchise records of ineptitude in those areas. So it’s so much fun having a very very good defense again and getting those defensive splash plays.

    Although I will say, it’s still taking me some time before I have the trust in them that they deserve, those 2012-2014 years scarred me in that regard and every time there’s been an opportunity for the opposing offense to take the lead late in the game I still just assume like they probably will, and yet they have been very good in important situations pretty much every time this year.

  • capehouse

    Watched the game again in detail and a couple things stood out to me about the secondary. Artie Burns didn’t play as bad as everyone made it seem. He sure had some issues, but took the blame on a lot of things he shouldn’t have, like the Mariota TD run. His pass breakup was a thing of beauty and he did it against the 5th overall pick in the draft. He also saved a TD by smartly following the receiver on that WR pass trick play. Sean Davis on the other hand didn’t have as good a game as everyone made it seem. He missed at least 3 tackles and seems to be following in the footsteps of Shazier. While that’s a complement, because he’s playing really well, the missed tackles are inexcusable at this point. Sensabaugh had an ok game, but that 75 yard TD he gave up was all on him and it scares the crap out of me cause he was just beat soundly. He didn’t try and jump a short route like Artie does and gets beat by a double move. He just got turned and had no makeup speed. Teams are going to look to exploit that down the road and I can see him quickly becoming the whipping boy for Yinzers. Also, Robert Golden is terrible. Guy can’t tackle or cover. Steelers better draft a Safety in the top 2 rounds next year.

  • Lambert58

    No one will ever touch the 1976 Steelers. 5 shutouts out of 14 games.

  • Ichabod

    Grow up watching the Steel curtain. They were AWESOME! But FWIW, I think it would be easier getting shutouts against the run first mentalities of that day than against the high octane offenses of today.

  • Chad Weiss

    I wish they took Lawson over Connor,kittle over Dobbs and traded up for Desmond king. That would have been an amazing draft. Can’t have everything though

  • CP72

    If I’m a team playing the Steelers I run double moves on Artie 3 or 4 times a game.

  • Matt Manzo

    It’s really amazing considering they haven’t even fully blossomed yet!
    Alex! How much of it is the players, and how much of it is Butler?

  • Jaybird

    Correct if I’m wrong , but the 5 shutouts were in the last nine games. That is even more incredible! Amazing.

  • Jaybird

    I would have went Kittle. He said the perfect Steeler Te. Dobbs is a waste pick

  • Ichabod

    Don’t understand the Dobbs pick so I’m with you there. I think they didn’t see a need for Lawson because of Dupree. But in hind sight they should have gone Lawson.

  • DirtDawg1964

    I was screaming for them to take Lawson. I think a lot of us were. Same with Kittle over Dobbs. The Dobbs pick still has me shaking my head. At least the Connor pick was understandable.

  • DirtDawg1964

    It’s a good defence. Still very young. They will make mistakes. The game is complex and it moves quickly. People who have never played the sport just don’t understand how complex it can be for these young guys.

    I like that they are getting pressure now. The last few years they were rarely getting pressure. Now they’re regularly in the QBs face. Not every down. No team does that. But more than enough to make a real difference.

    Tuitt, Heyward, Hargrave, Shazier, Davis, Burns, Watt, Dupree, Hilton – these are really talented players. Lot of room for optimism in that bunch

  • Nathanael Dory

    I like our picks but man…They could have gone in another direction with the Dobbs pick

  • Lambert58

    Yep, that will probably never happen again.

  • Lambert58

    True. Good point. 3 yards and a cloud of dust days. haha


    The missed tackles are what frustrate me the most. It often makes them look like fools.

  • John Noh

    Alex, the OLBs have been more flash-in-the-pan than flash lately. It’s a good thing they’re getting pressure from all areas. Now imagine if the OLBs start picking it up. 1985 Bears; 1976 Steelers; hell, even this year’s Jacksonville defense.

  • Don

    I’m glad you note the 13 pts off Ben’s pick sixes. I hear references all the time to the “30 burger” given up to the Jags. Hardly an offensive explosion by the Jags that game, they didn’t crack 300 yards until the inexplicable 90-yarder at the end.

    Even the two games this year the defense did allow more than 17, one was barely over (18 to the Browns) and the other required OT to do it (23 vs Bears). I’ve gotten frustrated at times this year, too–mostly at missed tackles–but I don’t get the level of dissatisfaction with the defensive side of the ball this year. In spite of all their “imperfections,” they’ve allowed fewer points than every team but Jacksonville.

    I think most fans don’t know how to compare today’s NFL defenses to the past, within the context of how the current rules favor the offense. I’m certainly not expecting to see any defense throw 5 shutouts in 9 games like the 1976 team anytime soon.

  • Jaybird

    You can book it that it won’t happen again.

  • 695hoops

    People said JuJu was a wasted pick too.

  • Jaybird

    Not me . But I get what your saying.

  • Preston Coe

    When you take away the huge TDS, not much left to complain about. If they could tweak that a little bit, it would be a near perfect D.

  • Rich Stafford

    None of this matters until you beat the pats. The Steelers coaching staff must prove it can adjust and do different things to beat TB 12 and company. BB will spread out the 3-4 base look and cut them up with zone beating routes. You must play man and spin the dial on D to beat TB. Lining up in a base defense zone look is suicide against the evil empire. And you may want to double Gronk. It’s mind numbing to watch the Steelers try to do the same thing against them in every match up.

  • Rich Stafford

    Wow that is some serious Monday morning QB don’t you think? People really underestimate their drafts. They have been really good overall. I don’t like Dobbs but I am willing to give him a year or two to be fair.

  • Chad Weiss

    Possibly.. I’m not under estimating anything.I was on board with this draft from day one. I was on board and thrilled with first four picks from day one unlike most people. They had a great draft but in the later rounds they could have done better imo. I’m not saying Dobbs Allen or Adams are bad picks but imo there was better picks to be had. I don’t under estimate Colbert either as he is best in the business imo.