The 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with several issues. They had a divided locker room, a slow and predictable third down defense, and couldn’t create turnovers. Despite those issues, the Steelers were three defensive stops shy of making the postseason. The front office responded quickly. First, they brought in linebacker Mark Barron and cornerback Steven Nelson through free agency. Secondly, they were uncharacteristically aggressive in the draft in order to get their man. Thirdly, they rebuilt their chemistry. Did they do enough? Is the Steelers defense three stops better this season? The answer is a resounding yes.
Steelers Defense is Now Faster and More Unpredictable
The Steelers have several issues to overcome if they intend on returning to the postseason in 2019. The most important issues involve a defense that was slow and predictable in the middle. This really hurt them in third down situations. How so? Teams ran the ball against L.J. Fort because he was ineffective against the run. They passed the ball against Jonathan Bostic, who was slow and weak in coverage. Predictability is the reason the Steelers defense had a hard time getting off the field. Third down predictability has been a problem since losing Ryan Shazier. Enter Devin Bush and Barron.
Bush and Barron add much-needed speed and versatility to the defense. Both are more than capable in coverage and run defense. Ultimately, there are two reasons the Steelers want them on the field at the same time. The first is pretty obvious, they are solid in coverage and go sideline to sideline quickly. The second reason is equally important. It allows Vince Williams, a solid inside blitzer, to move into more of a specialty role for that very purpose. Bush and Barron make the defense faster and more unpredictable. In short, they make the Steelers defense three stops better this season.
The primary benefits of adding Bush and Barron are the speed and unpredictability they add to the middle of the defense. The secondary benefits are just as important. For starters, their presence will greatly benefit the secondary. More speed in the middle, along with the added element of unpredictability, buys more time to get to the quarterback. Why? More defensive unpredictability means more confusion for the quarterback. That translates to more pressure. More pressure on the quarterback makes life easier on the secondary. That hopefully translates to more turnovers. The Steelers also believe that the addition of Nelson helps in that area as well.
Nelson struggled with the Kansas City Chiefs until they found him a home outside. The Steelers hope he builds on his success in 2019. Nelson is an upgrade over Coty Sensabaugh and Artie Burns. He possesses better coverage and ball skills. The Steelers expect marked improvement from a secondary. They now have a better pair of corners and a stronger front seven to protect them. That expectation is realistic based on what the defense put on tape in the preseason. Expect the reality of a Steelers defense three stops better this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers Defense Ready for Postseason
Superb preseason performances don’t guarantee regular-season success. However, with Bush, that just might be the case. Bush can do things the Steelers haven’t seen since they lost Shazier. It’s why they aggressively traded up to get him. Bush alone makes the Steelers defense three stops better in 2019 because of what he adds. In addition to Bush, Barron and Nelson are the Cherries on top. Expect the defense to take some pressure off the offense and get them the ball more this season. Expect the defense to make more noise. Most importantly, expect a Steelers defense three stops better this season.
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