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The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense Is On An Astonishing Pace In 2022, And Not A Good One For Their Long-Term Outlook

Photo via David Richard | AP Photo

The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense Is On An Astonishing Pace In 2022, And Not A Good One For Their Long-Term Outlook

The 2022 NFL season hasn’t started the way the Pittsburgh Steelers would have hoped. After back-to-back disappointing losses to the New England Patriots and the divisional rival Cleveland Browns, the Steelers sit at 1-2 and the offense has yet to score more than 17 points in a game.

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin and Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski after Week 3 |Credit: Getty Images

However, a very concerning number that isn’t being talked about is actually on the defensive side of the ball. The Steelers’ defense has currently played a total of 231 defensive snaps through three games, or an average of 77 plays per game. That pace would have them ending with a total of 1,309 defensive snaps through a 17-game regular season, which would be the most defensive plays by a team in NFL history.

Now, since the NFL switched to the 17-game schedule in 2021, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the most defensive snaps in a season will hit a new high with the added game. However, the Steelers are also set to blow past the record for most plays per game by a pretty astounding margin.

The most defensive snaps played per game by an NFL team (since the stat became available in 2003) was in 2016 by the Philadelphia Eagles, who played 71.8 plays per game that season. Playing 5.2 more plays per game than the previous high is an insane jump, and one that Steeler Nation should be very concerned about.

The Steelers Offense Needs To Help Out Their Defense

Now, the Steelers’ offense has not done the defense any favors with their inability to put points on the board. When the offense isn’t scoring it puts a lot of stress on the defense to play at an extremely high level, and without reigning Defensive Player Of The Year T.J. Watt for a couple more weeks, it is simply asking too much.

When on offense, the Steelers have the lowest time of possession in the league, excluding overtime, at just above 24 minutes per game. They are also in the bottom 1/4th of the league in terms of plays run per game right at 58, which does include overtime.

Getting the offense to sustain long drives, which usually results in more points, will go a long way in helping their defense maintain a high level of play. It will also help them stay fresher and healthier throughout the regular season. The team is on the healthier side when you look across the league as the only true injury the team has sustained has been to the previously mentioned Watt. Granted, that injury is likely harder felt than any other injury across the other 31 teams.


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Even though the offense needs to be better, the defense definitely needs to help themselves in key situations. The team has struggled so far this season on possession downs, so 3rd and 4th down, which has led to teams being able to extend drives against them.

On the season so far, the Steelers are 25th in terms of 3rd down conversion percentage by opponents, with their opponents converting just under 47% of the time. It doesn’t stop there, unfortunately. Teams are also converting over 50% of their 4th downs against the Steelers. While that number isn’t staggering and currently sits near the middle of the pack, opponents are attempting more against them as well, as their opponents have converted four 4th downs this season against the Steelers’ defense. That is tied for the 5th most in the league.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin has put emphasis on possession downs several times throughout his tenure with the team, so I am sure he sees all of these numbers as well.

Steelers Mike Tomlin Before Browns

Steelers’ Mike Tomlin gets the defense ready to take on the Browns in Week 3 of the 2022 regular season | Credit: Abigail Dean/Pittsburgh Steelers

It may be hard to make a significant improvement on the defensive numbers that I mentioned above until Watt returns from his pec injury. The easiest way to give the defense some much-needed relief in the meantime will be for the offense to step up their play and possess the ball longer. That means both Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada and starting QB Mitch Trubisky need to perform better than they have so far this season.

How do you think the defense has done so far and what do you think needs to change so they can get off of the field more often? Let us know in the comment section below!

#SteelerNation


Coming to the Steelers Jets game on Oct 2? Come tailgate with us! All you can drink and eat. Click here.


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I’ve been a freelance sports writer for several years, centered around football, baseball, basketball, and fantasy sports. I’m born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio and a diehard Steelers fan. I love sharing my thoughts and opinions on all things sports, especially when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I also received my BS in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University in 2016, and have a career in Material Research and Development. Follow me on Twitter!

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