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What Happened to Highly Rated Steelers Defense in Playoff Loss?

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PITTSBURGH — The Steelers did not have a banner day in any facet of their game in the season-ending playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.

While the Pittsburgh offense had scuffled to the finish line in the regular season, the Steelers’ defense was one of the best units in the league throughout the regular season.

The Steelers finished the 2020 regular season third in yards per game allowed with 305.8 and third in points per game allowed with 19.5 per game.

On Sunday, the defense allowed 390 yards and 48 points in a season-ending loss to the Browns.

What happened?

“The question is, what went right?” defensive captain Cam Heyward said. 

“We didn’t stop the run early. We didn’t execute. And then the quick passing really got the best of us and yards after catch. Our tackling was poor.”

Of course, the Steelers’ offense didn’t help matters. They gave up a defensive touchdown and Ben Roethlisberger threw four interceptions, which the Browns were able to turn into 17 points off turnovers.

“We didn’t give up field goals,” Heyward said. “Even when we did turn the ball over, we still had a chance to fight, but it all was terrible tonight.”

Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 124 yards rushing, but it was big yards-after-catch plays in the passing game that really hurt the Pittsburgh defense.

In the first quarter, Jarvis Landry beat Mike Hilton in zone coverage on a third and medium, them made Terrell Edmunds miss and broke Hilton’s tackle to score from 40 yards out.

In the fourth quarter, a screen pass to Chubb went for 40 yards again after poor recognition upfront, Chubb shed Hilton and Vince Williams, and Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cam Sutton gave poor effort in pursuit for a back-breaking touchdown.

“When we don’t execute at a high level, that’s what’s going to happen,” Heyward said. “You know, we preach execution. And we do it, you know, good results and when we don’t it puts the defense at risk. You know, we never got a rhythm.”

The Steelers defense was, of course, also missing key players, as linebackers Devin Bush and Bud Dupree and cornerback Joe Haden didn’t play in Sunday’s game.

“We lost some great players, but you know, injuries are part of the game,” Heyward said. “And I can never make excuses and say injuries caught up to us but you know, there are things that have to be addressed. We just had one of the worst showings as a defense the whole year. We did not play complementary football. We did not have our offense’s back.

“It starts at the top with me. It was not acceptable.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette Makes Hall of Fame Case for Former Steelers Guard Alan Faneca

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As the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee met Tuesday, The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette made the case for former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca.

Bouchette listed Faneca’s career accomplishments, of which there are many, and compared him to others league-wide and at his positions with similar credentials, demonstrating how it is long past time the six-time All-Pro received the football’s highest honor.

Selected in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft out of LSU, Faneca spent the first decade of his career in Pittsburgh before closing with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.

Faneca missed just two games over his 13-year career, was selected to nine-straight Pro Bowls and named First-Team All-Pro six times. He was also named to the All-Decade team of the 2000s and won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers.

The Class of 2021 will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 8, 2021.

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Pro Football Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame Selector Bill Polian Makes Case for Former Steelers Scout Bill Nunn

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With the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee meeting Tuesday to determine the next group legends to be enshrined, Hall of Famer and former general manager Bill Polian made the case for Pittsburgh Steelers scout Bill Nunn.

In his presentation, Polian especially highlighted Nunn’s impact as a revolutionary in the scouting process targeting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Nunn’s vital scouting these underrepresented players and institutions proved vital in crafting the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.

“He was the authority, while working for the (Pittsburgh) Courier, on HBCU football. He might well have been termed the Scout-in-Chief of HBCU football,” Polian said. “Bill Nunn helped create one of the greatest teams of all time.”

A Pittsburgh native, Nunn attended Westinghouse high school and West Virginia State College before embarking on a journalism career with the Pittsburgh Courier. Eventually becoming the managing editor of the paper, Nunn gained notoriety for his black college All-American teams, highlighting relatively unknown players at HBCUs.

Nunn’s expertise translated to his career with the Steelers, where his scouting led the organization to draft a number of legends form HBCUs, including L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount, Ernie Holmes, John Stallworth and Donnie Shell.

Nunn would become the first Steelers nominated as a contributor if selected. Executives Art and Dan Rooney were inducted prior to the designation in 1964 and 2000, respectively.

The Class of 2021 will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 8, 2021.

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Steelers

Steelers WR Chase Claypool Named to PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team

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Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool has been named to the 2020 Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie team.

Claypool was honored along with Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson as the top 2020 rookies at the position. 

The Notre Dame product caught 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He also rushed for a pair of scores, tying Louis Lipps for the most touchdowns scored by a Steelers rookie with 11 total.

Claypool was the 11th wide receiver selected in the 2020 NFL Draft when the Steelers took him with the 49th overall selection. 

Claypool previously won the Joe Greene Great Performance Award as the Steelers’ rookie of the year.

This is the second straight season the Steelers had a PFWA All-Rookie member, as linebacker Devin Bush was a part of the 2019 squad. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and linebacker T.J. Watt were awarded in 2017.

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