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Steelers defense; lack of scheme, lack of talent, or something else?

It’s hard for anyone in the Steeler Nation to admit when the defense is just not what it used to be. We’re a proud group of fans cheering for a proud team with an amazing history that nobody can ever take away. Ok maybe it’s not hard for some and unfortunately it’s getting easier to be on the other side of the fence these days.  Whichever side you are on, more power to you because in the end we’re all Steeler fans through and through.

So what of this defense, the Big Nasty D, Blitzburgh, the New Steel Curtain? How much of it can you blame on injuries to guys like James Harrison and Troy Polamalu? How much of it do you place on Mike Tomlin, Dick Lebeau, or the Steelers front office who evaluates the talent? Is it a combination of everything?

To be clear, I’m hardly anywhere near jumping off a bridge and neither should anyone else, but some things need to change in Pittsburgh and most of it is on the defensive side of the ball right now.

If you look at how things have gone down through the first 3 weeks, there are glaring issues that you might normally see later in the year when guys are worn out and injured. These things are happening in the first month of the season, when players are their most healthy, generally speaking.  Poor tackling, bad angles in the secondary, missed assignments, penalties, and the like.

The 34 defense is not an out of date style of play, plenty of teams run it well. The problem is in order to do so you need to have an amazing front 7 and in particular outstanding linebackers. Pittsburgh is lacking in this area, both in depth and with the play of the starters. I decided to include a portion of the thoughts from a member of SteelerAddicts, and friend of our Twitter account as a good example of what things have come down too (I did edit out some of the language as a courtesy but his thoughts are clear and unfortunately on target).

“Ziggy Hood, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worilds, and Marcus Gilbert; not even close to their 1st and 2nd round draft billing. He looked lost and slow. Hood’s ability as an edge rusher has been taken away from him in this system. If the Steelers thought he would fit their system, they were sadly mistaken. Hood is truly trying and has motor, but the reality is … this is not the system for him. Timmons is hit or miss. He’ll have a great game followed by 2 pedestrian games followed by 1 forgettable game and the cycle starts all over again. Foote is a guy who can hold his own, probably a 2nd teamer on most NFL squads, but certainly not a stand-out top tier MLB anymore. Woodley is the only true guy who can be called an impact playmaker on our defense right now. As long as teams know this, he’ll be doubled and deemed Mr. Irrelevant all too often.

Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel are no longer starting caliber talent. I’m sorry if some of you still think they are. Trust me on this one, let go people … let go, they’re NOT. They are “spot duty” subs at best. Steve McLendon is a better nose than Hampton is at this point of his career and needs to see the field more. Keisel has been as irrelevant as any player I’ve seen on the defense this year. The man is virtually non-existent on far too many plays, especially this past weekend. Where in the world is Cam Heyward? Is he that much worse than Hood or Keisel at this point? All I heard out of camp was how Ryan Mundy and Keenan Lewis are ready to take on added responsibilities this year. Guess what? Both are NOT ready for prime time yet.

If you want to pin the current state of the defense on anybody, pin it on Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin. They’re the ones who are grading the draft picks and going after these dark horses to fit into a system they have no business being in. Lebeau is playing the hand he’s being dealt. If I were him, I’d sign-off at the end of the season and call it a day. He has nothing left to prove”**

Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree or perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle still trying to figure out where the pressure defense went and why the secondary is having problems covering backup receivers.

Nobody in the world can question the credentials of Dick Lebeau and we are all grateful for what he’s been able to do throughout his career in Pittsburgh. He knows how to coach defenses, but his players aren’t living up to the responsibility at this time. Even with the new “Big Nickel” that worked well against Mark Sanchez, there are still issues and perhaps that scheme needs tweaking with personnel. Do you really want James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley coming off the field once they get back together?  I could argue that using one or both in the middle could be ideal but who’s to say for sure?




** JoeSteelerFan thoughts on “My Take of the 2012 Steelers”


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