The 0-4 Pittsburgh Steelers are in the midst of their bye week, and many thoughts have been presented on what ails them. Yes, the offensive line has not performed well, especially at left tackle where they recently traded for Levi Brown, but it is another solid facet of their success that has disappeared, their run defense.Adrian Peterson, the once dominant unit has joined their sack and turnover rankings near the bottom of the NFL. One could argue that the lack of pressure and turnovers are schematically driven, and that teams are prepared for what the Steelers are doing, but that may not be the case with the run defense.
Throughout the Steelers success in the past decade, run defense was always based on a mindset and physicality, something this team seems to lack. How bad is it for this facet of the game? It is bad. To this point of the 2013 campaign, the unit has not held any opponent under the century mark, giving up an average of 122.8 yards per contest. By comparison, this four game stretch equals the amount of times that happened in the disappointing 2012 season.
Part of the problem is the amount of big plays the defense has given up. On top of the 60-yard touchdown (140 overall) by Peterson, they have also given up a 55-yard touchdown run to the Chicago Bears Matt Forte. Why have these plays happened, missed tackles. In the past two games, the once proud defensive unit missed more tackles than you would usually see in an entire season.
While some may point to the change up front with Steve McLendon taking over for Casey Hampton, who was not re-signed after the 2012 season, it may not be that easy. The defensive line has played well in 2013, and has actually performed above expectations. If anything, it is the loss of Larry Foote in the season opener that has had a bigger influence from a personnel standpoint.
Of course, it could also be what many pundits have pointed to over the past few seasons, the Steelers defense is old and slow. If they want to turn the season around, the Steelers and their defense will have to prove those pundits wrong and regain their focus and physicality. If they do not, this will be an even longer season than it already is.
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