Through the first 13 weeks of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the NFL’s number one ranked defense and are number one against the pass and five against the run. You would think that the team with the league’s number one ranked defense would have one of the top records or at least be leading their own division. The Steelers however, sit at 7-6 and are fighting to get into the playoffs as the last wildcard team. That record includes big wins against the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens while also terrible losses to the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders, and San Diego Chargers.
The inconsistent play has been a complete team effort this season and a huge part of it has been the rash of injuries the Steelers have suffered, including losing Ben Roethlisberger for three games. When you really look at all of the Steelers losses however, you can’t truly blame everything on injuries and one fact was apparent in their embarrassing home loss to the Chargers last week.
The Pittsburgh Steelers cannot rush the passer.
Steelers defenders could only muster one sack against a decimated Chargers offensive line last week and that one sack was by Ziggy Hood. On the season, the Steelers leading sacker is Jason Worlids with a grand total of five and starters LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison have four each.
Woodley and Harrison are the players to look at this week because although the Steelers are number one against the pass as a defense, they are also tied for 3rd worst in the NFL with only 12 takeaways. With an offense that has struggled at times this season, especially with the loss of Roethlisberger, it’s huge for a defense to turn the ball over and give the team a short field to work with. It would take pressure off of the offense and it was a problem versus the Chargers as the Steelers were almost always starting inside their own 10 yard line.
In his first three seasons as a starter, LaMarr Woodley had amassed at least 10 sacks and the past two years he has a total of 13. Since Harrison became a starter he has been a beast at getting to the passer and forcing fumbles and now you barely know he’s playing. The one time Harrison has forced a fumble this season was in the huge game against the Ravens which was a win.
James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley used to be known as one of the best sack duos in the league and neither have been able to stay on the field much the past two seasons. Not surprisingly the Steelers have struggled creating turnovers in that span.
The best way to force turnovers on defense is to put pressure on the quarterback and the entire Steelers team has had a problem in that area. The Steelers need Woodley and Harrison to step up this week and for the rest of the season and do what they are capable of doing.