We’re just over three weeks away from Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, and the national media is beginning to take notice just how dominant this defense can truly be in 2022. In the latest rendition of their positional group power rankings, CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin dubbed the Steelers as having the best defensive front in football with this to say:
Want an elite edge rusher? OK, here’s T.J. Watt. Want an elite interior rusher? OK, there’s Cameron Heyward. Want a great nose tackle? OK, there’s Tyson Alualu. Want depth? Well, let’s roll out Chris Wormley, newly signed Larry Ogunjobi, Montravius Adams, and DeMarvin Leal, along with Alex Highsmith coming off the edge opposite Watt.
Devin Bush hasn’t lived up to his promise but still has ton of athleticism at linebacker, and pairing him with Myles Jack gives Pittsburgh one of the freakiest linebacker duos in the league. There are arguments for other teams, of course, like quality edge depth (Bills), top-end talent (Chargers, Rams, Cowboys), versatility (Ravens), and the lack of clear weak points (49ers, Saints), but the Steelers still stand out.
Dubin listed the Los Angeles Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, and New Orleans Saints as the honorable mention teams for this superlative.
For the second time Friday, the Steelers have been praised in a positive manner by the national media. Rich Eisen previously included the Steelers in his list of five sleepers heading into the season.
Now, awarding the Steelers as having the best defensive front in football makes sense, especially after reading Dubin’s explanation. To start, they have the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in TJ Watt. Heyward is right there in terms of the best defensive players in the NFL behind Watt. The black and gold exude talent beyond just those two, including third-year breakout candidate Alex Highsmith, speedsters Myles Jack and Devin Bush, and veteran Tyson Alualu.
Pro Football Focus also recently complimented the Steelers’ front, more specifically their defensive line. They ranked the Steelers fourth amongst NFL defensive lines, just behind the Rams, Washington Commanders, and Green Bay Packers:
Stephon Tuitt‘s retirement hurts this group’s outlook entering 2022 and likely puts Chris Wormley back into a similar role to the one he filled in 2021 (69.3 PFF grade on over 750 defensive snaps). However, Pittsburgh still has a top-three interior defensive lineman and top-three edge defender on the roster, as T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward both rank among the top-three players at their respective position in quarterback pressures over the last three seasons while also playing the run at a high level.
Alex Highsmith is an X-factor for the unit entering his third season out of Charlotte. Highsmith saw his pass-rushing efficiency decrease in 2021 while doubling his snap count from 459 as a rookie to 910 last season.
Back to CBS Sports‘ acknowledgement of the Steelers’ lethal front, it’s interesting after how bad the team’s run defense was in 2021. A slew of injuries as well as ineffectiveness from linebackers Joe Schobert and Bush hurt the team significantly in this department. With some guys back from injury, as well as some off-season signings, this aspect of the defense is expected to return to their old ways.
With that being said, there’s no doubt on who has the best pass rush in football. Led by Watt, Heyward, and Highsmith, the team led the NFL in sacks in 2021 with 55. Add Alualu back into the mix, as well as Ogunjobi, and this group may even improve in that statistic.
Do you guys agree that the Steelers have the best defensive front in football? They inarguably have the best pass-rushing front, that’s for sure. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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