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The Truth Behind the Steelers Run Defense Isn’t Pretty



Steelers Run Defense

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ run defense has allowed over 150 yards per game in the last three games after being a top-ten-ranked unit prior to the stretch. After the team felt like they had last year’s run defense issues solved, Cordarrelle Patterson and the Falcons cracked the code in the second half in Atlanta. Then, the Ravens ran for over 200 yards on the ground against the Steelers in their 16-14 victory.

So, what is it? Why can the Steelers suddenly not stop the run? Is it a combination of superstars being injured and struggling? Are the schematics up front off? Is it execution?

Well, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith had an answer for it on Wednesday. To say the least, the true answer that Highsmith gave was not pretty for why Pittsburgh’s run defense has not been up to their standard in the past six quarters.

“We have to shore up our physicality,” Highsmith said. “We need to stay in our gaps you know, making the pile fall back. Attacking guys, we didn’t do that enough last game. So, that’s going to be a point this game.”

Physicality? For a Mike Tomlin-led Steelers defense? Yeah, the tape clearly did not go over well with Tomlin or the Steelers’ defense. It shouldn’t have, either. The Steelers were kicked up and down the field, and even when they knew the plays that were coming, it never mattered.

This is not a matter of a magical schematic fix. The coaches can always be better, and so can the players. But the lackadaisical run defense falls at the feet of the players up front more than anything, Highsmith backs that up, as the Steelers defenders were washed out of gaps multiple times on Sunday afternoon.

Now, the Panthers bring in a run game that is starting to fire on all cylinders. Led by Chuba Hubbard and D’onta Foreman, the Panthers have the 3rd most EPA/Rush in the last four games. Carolina will be a test, and their physical unit is ready to duplicate exactly what the Ravens did.

Gap discipline, physicality, and the basics of run defense are all issues for the Steelers right now. A lack of a true nose tackle hurts them, and Chris Wormley’s injury adds more fuel to the flames. Make no mistake, this is a personnel issue that the players will have to rise up to fix. Based on their work this season, Pittsburgh is capable of slowing down the run. The only question is will they be up to the task?

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