INDIANAPOLIS — The Steelers have needs on defense at all three levels. They could add another young player to the interior defensive line. The team will need reinforcements at linebacker. And, of course, the secondary will need more players to build around. However, the one key attribute the team needs is simple — speed.
The defense is struggling primarily due to injuries. There’s more to why they continue to fall flat in the schematic department, but this team is slow on defense when it comes down to it. They have explosive edge rushers and interior defensive linemen, but it is easy to keep extra bodies in and make the secondary hold up. The team does little to help that front, and when they do, it seems nonsensical that the dropout players like Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt.
But when you see guys streaking open and beating the Steelers to the corner, it’s not hard to see why, and even before the injuries, it was true that this team was not athletic enough from the linebackers’ back. The secondary, in particular, is too slow. This group badly needs youth injection to run more of those mixed-man coverage looks they love to run. Their disguises fall flat and can put them in tough spots to succeed because they get beaten. It’s simple as to why — the athleticism is not there.
Pittsburgh has that athleticism problem, and they can’t mask it. It’s hard, and a complete overhaul of the secondary is to fix that complication. Once they do that, there is a better chance this group will float rather than sink as much as they have with injuries. Not only do they not have depth, but they also do not have athletic depth, and their starters are on the side of slow across the board. It’s a huge issue when allowing explosive plays and letting teams tee off on their pass rushers.
Omar Khan and Andy Weidl will have a big project on defense. It’s not hard to see where they will need to attack. This group needs athleticism; particularly, they need to add it quickly on the back end of this defense.