Steelers 'D' Faces Tough Test

By Starkey, Joe | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), September 14, 2018 | Go to article overview

Steelers 'D' Faces Tough Test


Starkey, Joe, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Debate raged over the Steelers defense after the tie in Cleveland - and when the subject is Steelers defense, always remember this: Good isn't good enough.

Dominance is the goal here.

So, did it play really well or just OK Sunday? Did it convince you that last year's bugaboos - inability to minimize big plays, stop the run at key times, maintain discipline and communicate cleanly - are on their way to being fixed?

Didn't convince me.

I mean, it played a decent game under adverse circumstances created by its turnover-machine offense, but I'm nowhere near ready to make grand pronouncements about this reconfigured group.

Not yet. Not after it allowed 177 yards rushing and 4.7 yards per carry, mostly on account of quarterback Tyrod Taylor breaking loose for critical runs, a la Blake Bortles in January (only worse). Not after it failed to protect a late lead.

Yes, the Steelers kept big plays at a minimum. But when the Browns needed them, they got two in row, covering 55 yards on two passes to tie the score, 21-21.

Communication waned, such as when the Steelers were caught with 12 (maybe 13) men on the field late in regulation. That could have cost them the game. Discipline dipped, too, when cornerback Artie Burns went all WWE with Jarvis Landry, sparking a Browns scoring drive.

Obviously, this defense is better than the one that took the field against Jacksonville. How could it not be? And yes, it harassed Taylor all afternoon, but when doesn't it harass Cleveland quarterbacks (who no longer have Joe Thomas to protect them)?

Ultimately, I'm with linebacker Jon Bostic, who said Wednesday, "We have a ways to go."

Bostic added: "We're not just looking to be good. We have the potential to be a lot better than good. Right now, we're a decent bunch. That's the way I look at it. We have to get better in a lot of areas."

And fast, because those aren't the Cleveland Browns scheduled to visit Heinz Field Sunday. Those are the Kansas City Chiefs who, at the moment, might possess the most explosive, electric and eclectic offense in the NFL.

We could start with the video-game quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who threw four touchdown passes in a 38-28 win against the Los Angeles Chargers. Or star running back Kareem Hunt. Or star tight end Travis Kelce.

But we should probably talk about Tyreek Hill first, because Tyreek Hill is plain silly on a football field. …

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