November 18, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau looks on from the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Pittsburgh Steelers Defense Become a 4-3?

According to Curt Popejoy, the Steelers defense is starting to look like a 4-3 defense.  I can’t argue that point.  The draft picks alone can lead you to this idea.  The Steelers added more speed to the linebacker corps with the selection of Ryan Shazier.  It would be surprising if the speedy Shazier isn’t starting next to Lawrence Timmons in the season opener.  The Steelers also added a ton of size to the defensive line.  Stephon Tuitt is expected to be the starter at defensive end at 6’6″ and over 300 pounds.  The Steelers also selected Daniel McCullers out of Tennessee in the sixth round.  McCullers is an extremely large man at 6’8″ and 350 pounds.  Who knows if McCullers will be able to succeed in the NFL, but he could certainly eat up some space on the defensive line.

The theory Popejoy mentioned would allow the Steelers to utilize all of that size on the defensive line, while also giving the secondary much more help with all of the fast linebackers focusing on pass defense.  The change to a 4-3 would move Jason Worilds to defensive end with Cameron Heyward.  That might not be a horrible move considering Worilds is primarily a pass rusher anyway and his 6’2″ size would allow him to play the position all the time.  The defensive line would consist of Worilds, Tuitt, Steve McLendon or Cam Thomas or McCullers, and Cameron Heyward.  Then the three linebackers would be Jarvis Jones, Timmons, and Shazier.

Obviously Dick LeBeau is known for having a 3-4 defense, in which he utilizes his famous Zone Blitz.  However Mike Tomlin learned the Tampa 2 defense as a defensive backs coach for the Buccaneers and he used that defense as the defensive coordinator with the Vikings in 2006.  The Tampa 2 is traditionally played in a 4-3.  I doubt a 4-3 defense will be the standard defense used by the Steelers this year, but it has the potential to be a very good idea at times for this season and in the future.  If it allows the Steelers to maximize their potential on defense, why not give it a try?

Watching a Dick LeBeau 3-4 defense with blitzes coming from everywhere has been a thrill for the past ten years and I’m not saying the Steelers should go away from that at all.  The fact of the matter is, is the NFL is a passing league and if the linebackers could help improve the pass defense, it would be very beneficial.  Also, I’m sure LeBeau could come up with new blitz packages that other teams have never seen before, which would allow open lanes to the quarterback at times.

I think it sounds like a good idea but what do you think Steelers Nation?

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  • Craig

    The day the Steelers go 4-3 is the day LeBeau retires. If Popejoy is even remotely correct, then that means LeBeau is on his way out in a year or two.

    • John Volpe

      I have to agree with you Craig I think we are seeing the end of a defensive era in Pittsburgh

  • PJ_CA

    I don’t think it’s a bad idea, especially situationally. The Steelers are not exactly strangers to the 4-3, the “Steel Curtain” was a 4-3 defense, and that worked out pretty well for us. Also, using the LBs to provide much needed help in coverage would be a great idea since we didn’t bother to seriously address the secondary in the draft. The CBs could use all the help they can get, and Shazier’s speed could be just what the DR ordered.

  • David Dedo

    With all the spread offenses in the league, we don’t even play the 3-4 that often. What would be the point of going to a 4-3, for first down? The 3-4 gives a defense more flexibility. For example, outside linebackers mostly rush, but they can easily drop into coverage. (I seem to recall an OLB with an interception and 100 yard return in a Super Bowl.) When they put a hand on the ground (i.e, one of them plays DE), you’ve taken out some of the guesswork for the offense.

    Finally, we’ve been drafting for a 3-4 for years; our roster’s geared to that.

  • ApexSteel

    No. Don’t listen to Curt Popejoy. He is bad at his job.

  • craig

    Showing a multitude of Def. schemes is beneficial to the Def. overall performance, while limiting it to being specific allows the Off scheme to easily adjust.

  • UshouldListen

    In situational scenarios maybe a 4-3 could be used to shake things up and throw off the opponent, but with LeBeau’s track record with a 3-4? Well if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.