Pittsburgh Steelers, Def, Steelers
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2015 Outlook:Last updated on Aug-20-2015 by Shawn Childs
Just like the other teams in the AFC North, the Steelers' run defense has a tough schedule with six games against ground attacks that are better than league average -- the 49ers, the Seahawks and two games each against the Bengals and the Ravens. Pittsburgh has two games against teams with a weak run offense -- the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders. The Chargers added a top RB in the draft, so that game may fall more into the neutral range. On the passing side, the Steelers face nine teams with a below-average passing attack. Their toughest matchups will come against the Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots.
The Steelers allowed the sixth-fewest rushing yards last season (1,605), but they allowed 4.4 yards per carry, which was above the league average. Their opponents ran the ball just 23 times per game, the third-lowest total in the league. This overrated run defense allowed just nine rushing TDs.
Their best run defender last year was linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Their defensive line has only one elite player: defensive end Cameron Heyward. He provides only a slight edge against the run but did set a career-high with 7.5 sacks last season. He also recorded 12 QB hits and 38 QB hurries. With linebacker Jason Worilds retired, the Steelers really need 2014 first-round pick Ryan Shazier to make a step forward. He has plus quickness and upside against the run and the pass.
Pittsburgh notched only 33 sacks in 2014 while allowing the sixth-most passing yards (4,049). They allowed 7.8 yards per pass attempt, 30 passing TDs and snagged only 11 interceptions.
Their biggest weakness was their secondary. Steelers cornerbacks allowed 20 TDs last year and 2,537 yards. William Gay doesn't have the skill set to be a No. 1 cornerback, and Pittsburgh might be forced to wheel out 2015 second-rounder Senquez Golson. I have a tough time believing he will make an impact in his rookie year. Gay allowed 66 completions on 110 pass attempts for 936 yards and five TDs last year. When you add in the weak pass rush, it could be a long year for this defense.
At safety, Pittsburgh has below-average talent with questionable coverage skills.Overall, the defense has two proven players and an upside linebacker in Shazier. They added another stud linebacker in Round 1 this year in Bud Dupree. It's tough to believe this defense can handle an elite passing attack, and their success against the run will fall on their linebackers. I don't think this group has any fantasy value.
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