Steelers’ Defense Says It’s Still Searching For Consistency

Much has been made about the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense this year. Statistically, they look strong, especially in the secondary, where they ranked tops in the league until Matthew Stafford tore them up (they’re now tied for second). But hear from the players themselves and they’re not nearly as satisfied as the national media leads on. They know consistency is the key.

“We’ll play good against the run one week, and won’t play good against the pass,” linebacker Vince Williams told Teresa Varley of “Then we will play good against the pass one week, and we won’t play good against the run. Or we won’t force enough turnovers. Or we will have poor red zone defense. We just have to put everything together every single time we step on the field.”

That was true Sunday night. The Steelers shut down the Detroit Lions’ run game and had one of their best performances ever in the red zone but still allowed Stafford to throw for well over 400 yards and move the ball at will, aided by communication breakdowns in the secondary.

Communication might be at the top of that list. The defense openly talked about it being an issue two weeks ago against Cincinnati, Andy Dalton marching the Bengals down the field twice for a quick 14 points. They cleared things up at halftime and shut things down from there. But that didn’t happen against the Lions and communication miscues led to wide open receivers.

Consistency also applies to the run game. When it’s been good, it’s been really good. Shutting down Kareem Hunt is one of the best things the defense has done this year. When it’s been bad, you get the Chicago game. But there’s not doubting the talent is there. It’s just a matter of execution.

“I think we are capable of being the very best defense in the league by far,” Williams said.

The stat that matters above all else, points allowed, is favorable to Pittsburgh. They’re second best in the NFL at 16.4 points per game and on pace to allow just 262 points in 2017, which would be their lowest since 2011.

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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.

  • Following_Christ

    I do have to agree, it’s maddening to watch them enter a game where they are facing a team that averages only 50 yards on the ground, and Pittsburgh lets them out up 100+, likewise against a team struggling to pass. 😕

  • Ichabod

    They have greatly improved and should be considered a good defense.
    However thinking they could be the “best in the league by far” is dreaming a bit, no?

  • ImMikeD

    That 16.4 is pretty impressive. Image what it would look like if Ben eliminated 1/2 of those int’s and converted 50% more 3rd downs. I’m banking on him doing just that in the second half of the season.

  • Nathaniel Sullivan

    Disagree, need confidence in yourself to produce good results.

  • FATCAT716

    Absolutely that is not a dream. There is lot of talent on this defense & the reserves are pretty good. There are probowl players on each level, If you think of all the 1st round & 2nd round picks on defense it’s insane.

  • FATCAT716

    What does that mean?

  • FATCAT716

    That will be easy, don’t throw 55 times against perhaps the best secondary in the league with one of the worst run defenses in the league causing 5 INTs in one game. 2 of his other INTs were on the receivers. Most definitely possible

  • ImMikeD

    I’ll go with the “by far” part of your statement, but the numbers the defense is producing debunks your dreaming argument. Their numbers are proof that, at this point in the season, they are already one of the best defenses in the league. It wouldn’t be a great leap for them to vault into the number one defense over all

  • ImMikeD

    No doubt.

  • FATCAT716

    That’s why I can’t dump on Ben to much he hasn’t been the Ben of old but he hasn’t been that bad. If you consider how this o-line started out the season, Bell slow start, Bryant coming off some time off, McDonald coming late, JuJu being a rookie, Hunter is new & what you get is a QB that’s not familiar or confident in the pieces around him

  • ImMikeD

    Hey Fatcat, don’t get me wrong. I love me some BR and agree 100% with you. I just think he’s not helped the defense much this year and they are putting up great numbers despite him. My feeling on Ben is he’s kindda in self preservation mode thus far in the season. He knows he’s aging and he’s the only one who knows what he felt like at the end of the season last year. He had to have been gassed. Watching him play thus far through the season, he looks to me to be kind of going through the motions and he’s shied away from contact stepping into his throws on occasion. Like I said, I’m banking on a different Ben in the 2nd half of the season.

  • Alan Tman

    The NFL is a league of match ups and you have to win the match ups you are supposed to win, and the Steelers won the match up of their d-line vs. the Lions o-line. Maybe not how we thought that they would, but they won it all the same. We have to find the match ups we like, and take advantage of them all the way to the Superbowl.

  • dany

    sounds like an excuse but it’s the truth. If nothing changes the 2nd half of the year then sure I’ll put the blame squarely on him but as of now he’s adapting, as is 1/3 of the offensive team

  • Benjamin Netzel

    It means they need to believe in their potential and work on it. I think they have the talent to be the best in the league on both sides of the ball

  • Orlysteel

    If they play like they did in KC and in the second half of the Cincinnati game they are unstoppable, they need to bring that type of heat every game consistently.

  • capehouse

    I get excited watching this defense. They got some big play ability and tons of players with high ceilings. Consistency is definitely lacking tho.


    I don’t really see the failure on shutting down the run vs the Bears as being a huge failure. They have some very capable backs.
    However giving up 234 yards is definitely a BAD miss and that’s what they did to us.
    The D is young and inconsistency I see a hallmark of young people in any profession, football as well.
    I am not worried too much about the D.
    I WOULD however expect the O to be more consistent than what they have shown YTD. I noted the article about the change in WRs and its affect on BB but I think it goes well beyond that


    I think that is fair to say. He knows that he is one of the keys to a SB championship.
    PLUS he has only had what? two seasons thus far in his career where he’s played every game?

  • cencalsteeler

    Tighten up the zone coverage and watch out for the cutback on the stretch zone plays.

  • 太阳三联

    A lot of Staffords ‘explosive plays’ came on plays that shoulda been called back for holding. I’d shave a hundo off his numbers tbh. Stats are stats and numbers don’t lie but theyre skewed

  • 太阳三联

    NE just won a SB just last yr with this formula. Bend a bit but give UP NO POINTS

  • SeventhHeavan

    Yeah defense is looking better. Red zone defense improving. It’s all great until they play their kryptonite…the New England Patriots who will put up at least 35 on them.

  • Charles Haines

    A competent TE would do wonders for Ben

  • Ichabod

    I can see them being the best. But they have a couple of issues that need will not allow them to be the best “by far”.

  • Ichabod

    Confidence is one thing…sometimes reality is another. We’ll see as the season progresses. they have much improving to do.

  • #beatthepats

    The first half of the chief game was unreal defense, the chiefs literally went backwards, 2 nd Half of the bengal game the same: we have been hearing about “communication” issue for 2 years, I think butler schemes are proohibiting them from being great, the front 7 of this defense is the strength and the best it’s been in years and it’s compriimised to play a passive zone, they gave up huge plays in the fourth against the chiefs and Stafford shredded it . I think butler forgets he has Joe Haden, keep the petal on the metal, and forget that communication zone.

  • Zarbor

    Yup. The only consistency is the inconsistency. They are better but this defense still has a ways to go.