With the offensive line and run defense under the microscope of criticism since the first week, praises are far and few what was and is working for the Steelers – the secondary. Earlier this week, NPC featured an article discussing Keenan Lewis and his ‘success’ over the early part of this season. There’s been a little bit of mixed reaction from readers on Lewis’ play, and an even more mixed bag when it comes to talking about the secondary in general. So how good is this secondary, really?
Statistically, the secondary is the best part of the defense. In fact, the secondary has been ranked #1 in the league in yards allowed per game at a whopping 174 yds. And, even though the rush defense is ranked 18th with 108.8 yds per, the overall yards allowed from the defense is 2nd in the league at 282.8 yds. That’s some impressive numbers. But is there a bit of falsehood that lies within these stats? Anyone who puffs their chest out and touts that the Steelers have the best passing defense in the legue is quickly faced with a ‘yeah, but.’
‘Yeah, but the Steelers secondary has not faced a high powered passing offense.’ Touche. Their first real test as a defense would have come against Manning and the Colts, but there was no Manning. But what about Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans. Coming into that game, Matty and the Titans were on a three game winning streak. Hasselbeck passed for over 300 yards in each of those games, and the offense scored 17 points or more each game as well (with Hasselbeck throwing for at least 1 TD per game). Their passing offense was ranked 8th in the league – that’s nothing to scoff at, right? Aside from a few blown coverages here and there (of which I was fairly critical of) the secondary and LB’s dropping back into coverage did a fairly good job keeping the Titan receivers under control. Hell, you hardly ever heard Taylor’s, Lewis’ or Gay’s name all game. Is Dan Dierdorf in denial?
But can that game justify the ranking? Has the secondary been ‘truly tested’ this season? They play Jacksonville next, and they have the worst offense in the league (ranked 32nd and 31st in passing yards and points respectively), then the Cardinals (ranked 16th in passing) and then the Patriots (ranked 1st in passing and total yards and 2nd in points… yipes). So will the next two games give the team a false sense of security and hope while three weeks from now the high powered Patriots will be poised to blast the secondary off the face of the Heinz Field? I won’t hold my breath during that Patriots game. But, as for the first five weeks and what’s to come in the next two – I think we can all feel a little relieved that what was perceived as a huge problem since the Super Bowl is not as bad as we thought. In fact, the secondary is looking pretty good. We are talking about the NFL and good receivers and quarterbacks on teams. Even mediocre QB’s can expect to get a decent amount of yards when passing to the likes of someone like Reggie Wayne – especially since the Steelers front men have had a very difficult time putting any pressure on the quarterback.
Maybe these guys are finally developing into good cover corners. The interceptions aren’t there, but the stats of shutting down receivers are. Maybe Carnell Lake was the missing link to all of this. Now, I’m sure they will have their struggles over the season – no defense is perfect. But, this secondary has shown much promise for the season to come…. and dare I say that they may be the saviors to this poor performing pass rush and run defense?
So what do you think Nation? Is this secondary the real deal or just hyped up and weakly tested?