The Pittsburgh Steelers run defense was expected to be better this year. After finishing dead-last in 2021, they had some reinforcements coming. Tyson Alualu was coming back from an injury, and Larry Ogunjobi and DeMarvin Leal were added to the defensive line room. Moving to the next level, Myles Jack was one of the splash signings made by former general manager, Kevin Colbert.
The run defense started alright in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals ran the ball a lot with running back Joe Mixon, and the Steelers defense did a solid job in neutralizing his impact in that game. Well, after Week 3, the same issues are popping up from 2021. The black and gold did have to face arguably the best running offense in the NFL in the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, but there wasn’t any signs of slowing them down in the loss.
In years past, the defense has actually been somewhat successful in slowing down the best running back duo in the NFL in Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. On Thursday, not so much. The Browns offensive line continuously pushed the Steelers’ front seven around, creating large holes for the two running backs. The tackling wasn’t great either, as Chubb in specific seemed to bounce off multiple tackles each time he got the ball.
It was an issue last week as well, as the New England Patriots were able to run the ball down the Steelers’ throat to close the game out. Chubb ran the ball 23 times on Thursday night for 113 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Hunt wasn’t nearly as effective, but he still racked up a respectable 47 rushing yards on 12 carries. With quarterback Jacoby Brissett‘s 11 rushing yards thrown in, the Browns ran for 171 yards on the night on 4.5 yards per carry.
Essentially, the Browns did whatever they wanted to the Steelers’ front seven. The tackling has to improve, as does the push by the defensive line. Veteran superstar, Cam Heyward racked up seven total tackles including a tackle for loss, as he was the standout performer from that group as usual. The duo at inside linebacker had to step up and make plenty of tackles as well, as Devin Bush and Myles Jack combined for 23 total tackles in the loss.
After being encouraged by the run defense’s performance in Week 1, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin now has to take a step back and do a hard evaluation. Despite the encouraging start to the season, he did remain cautious, admitting there was still a long way to go. He couldn’t have been more right, as the optimism after that season opener may have been a bit premature. With the next two games against AFC East opponents, the run defense will need to get back on track if the Steelers want any chance of snapping their two-game losing streak.
What does the run defense need to do to improve moving forward? Do you have confidence that they can turn things around in this department? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below, as well as on our social media sites!
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