It’s easy to forget that the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the league’s elite defenses.
They have one of baseball’s most dominant defensive lineups, and they boast one of sports’ most dominant quarterbacks.
The Steelers rank among the league leaders in points per game (12.5), pass defense (3.4), sacks (25.4) and total defense (2.9).
And if they can avoid the injuries that plagued their 2015 squad, they could have the best defense in the league.
But the defense could need some help.
In Pittsburgh, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton will need some fresh faces.
A first-year coach with no previous experience in the position, Sutton was the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks for four years before becoming the Steelers’ defensive coordinator in 2016.
But Sutton’s new job could be a step up for a defense that has struggled to stop the run.
While Sutton has been criticized for not playing many nickel packages, he has also had success with a 4-3 scheme that has the Steelers running the football more frequently.
Sutton said he has been impressed with the run-heavy approach that the Steelers have adopted.
He also is not averse to playing a 3-4 defense in which his linebackers and safeties are the only ones who cover the quarterback.
But while the Steelers run more often, Sutton also wants to use his safeties more, so that they can be more versatile in coverage.
Sutton is familiar with the concept of “double-team coverage” in which the safeties cover the tight ends and receivers, with a linebacker taking away the running back’s options and giving the defense more time to cover the pass.
“I know what the defense looks like in the triple-team, and I know how we want to play it,” Sutton said.
“We want to do double-team.”
That is exactly what the Steelers did in 2016 with the addition of free-agent defensive end Antonio Smith and defensive tackle Chris Canty.
That group was an excellent unit that allowed just one touchdown and two interceptions as a unit.
It was a very physical, physical, fast, athletic unit that played a lot of man coverage.
However, it was also a unit that struggled with run-defense.
“If you’re a defensive line coach, you want to have that defense that can cover the run and can cover every other aspect of the offense, so you’re going to have to have a lot more help,” Sutton told USA Today.
Sutton’s Steelers also struggled with the pass rush, particularly on the edge, where the linebackers were too slow to play their man. “
That’s a big difference, so it’s going to be a big adjustment.”
Sutton’s Steelers also struggled with the pass rush, particularly on the edge, where the linebackers were too slow to play their man.
He said that in 2016 the Steelers were ranked 23rd in sacks per game and 23rd against the run, and the team had the ninth-fewest yards allowed per game.
That was largely due to the play of the Steelers pass rush.
They were the only team to allow the fewest sacks (2) and the second-fewst (1.8) yards per carry.
However the Steelers defense has improved in 2017, as Sutton’s team ranked 26th in the NFL in pass defense and the pass was the most productive offense in the game (27.2 yards per attempt).
The Steelers have the sixth-fewiest sacks in the entire NFL, which is good enough to rank sixth in the defensive league.
Sutton wants to improve the pass defense in 2018, and he wants to have more pressure on the quarterback to make plays, including sacks.
But he said that the offensive line has to be better this year.
“It’s a lot tougher this year because of the change in offensive line and we’re just trying to get everybody back to the same level,” Sutton added.
“And you have more opportunities to make big plays.
The Steelers also have some problems with the running game. “
But we have to make sure we’re doing the right things and we can keep them playing at a high level, because we’re going through a lot right now.”
The Steelers also have some problems with the running game.
The team had just the fifth-fewer rushing yards allowed (5.5) than the next-highest team (Kansas City, 3.9), but the Steelers ranked seventh in rushing yards per game at 3.2 per game in 2017.
They also ranked fourth in rushing offense at 7.2 points per play, which was third-highest in the conference.
“When you get up against that kind of stuff, you’re always looking for that big play,” Sutton explained.
“You’re always searching for those big plays.”