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Steelers Defense Aims to Make Big Change



Steelers Defense
The Steelers defense against the San Francisco 49ers, Sept. 10, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers defense needs to make a change. Following the loss of Cam Heyward from the team’s defensive line for the foreseeable future, the team will have a tough road ahead. On Monday night, the task of the front is to stop Nick Chubb after Christian McCaffrey diced the team up on the ground with ease. Not only is Heyward out, but Larry Ogunjobi is banged up, too.

That makes securing the front seven difficult for the Steelers until they get healthier. But defensive coordinator Teryl Austin can not hang his head in shame and worry about the potential cascading effect those losses have on the team. They face one of the best running backs in the NFL and an interior offensive line that boasts itself as a top unit. Teams will run on them until the Steelers prove they can stop the run.

“Absolutely. I think that especially in this League if you show some vulnerability, if you show some weakness, teams are going to take advantage of it until you correct it, and until we correct it, we can expect it to happen,” Austin said of the run defense. “It’s our job, starting with me, to make sure we put our guys in the right place to make the plays so we can correct it and get it corrected so that people aren’t doing that to us.”

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The Steelers’ defense must do everything possible to overcome those losses. Whether expanding the horizons on some of the defensive linemen to play further up and down the line, running more creative blitzes, starting disguising coverages on the back half, or doing something else, the Steelers must change something upfront. That is where the game-planning phase comes in this week. The Steelers lack elite talent up front, but they might be able to make some ground with their schematics.

More importantly, pre- and post-snap movements and checks have to come along. Not only did the Steelers have busts in coverage from their communication, but they had busts upfront in their run fits. That allowed McCaffrey and the offense to do more than they should have. Austin wants to see that change this week.

“Obviously didn’t do a good enough job either way, me coaching them, getting them in the right spots, those guys playing,” Austin said. “It just snowballed and we did not do a great job, and those guys did a better job than we did last week. The great challenge and great thing about the NFL is you get another week to do it, and I think our guys will respond to that challenge, and our guys will be up for it this week. ”

The Steelers will now have to answer whether they can slow down a run-first team and make Watson and the passing offense beat them. They will have a legitimate shot against the Browns on Monday if they can.