The current question surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers is what exactly has happened to that once dominant defense?
You don’t have to look further than the most recent NFL Drafts to find your answer.
One thing the Steelers haven’t done well in the Mike Tomlin era is draft very well. Some of that has to do with drafting late and some of that can be attributed to not having many needs for the past few years, but the Tomlin-Kevin Colbert combination hasn’t done as well as the Bill Cowher-Colbert combo in terms of drafting.
That rings especially true late in the draft where the Steelers always seemed to find guys that could come in and make an impact. That hasn’t been the case as of late.
The proof is all over this Steelers roster.
The list of players the Steelers have drafted on the defensive side of the ball within the last four years is not an impressive one. That list includes: Cam Heyward, Ziggy Hood, Alameda Ta’amu, Chris Carter, Stevenson Sylvester, Jason Worilds, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Keenan Lewis and Ryan Mundy.
That’s a list of a combined 10 players who haven’t helped this football team a whole heck of a lot.
Sure there could be a few good NFL players in that crop, but for the most part they are a group of average guys at best. Some of them are in their third and fourth season in black and gold and still have failed to make much of an impact.
The organization knew that they were aging on the defensive side of the ball and did nothing to prepare for the future. For a salary capped team that can’t go out and spend money on free agents to improve, you can’t miss in the draft and that’s exactly what the Steelers have been doing for four years.
Ultimately, draft decisions are Colbert’s but Tomlin has a great deal of impact on those decisions. It is his football team after all and he’s going to get the player he ultimately wants.
However, there are no stars or impact players drafted on the defensive side of the ball during his past four years.
It’s not a case of these guys simply taking time to develop. Rookies and second-year players make an impact on the defensive side of the ball all of the time in the NFL. It’s just a case of poor drafting.
I won’t include Ta’amu in looking at what these guys have combined to produce because he hasn’t played a game yet, but the production from the other guys is ugly to be kind.
As an average, the other nine guys have combined to average only 37.2 tackles per person. Only Mundy (104 career tackles), Hood (63), Worilds (61) and Lewis (60) have recorded more than 60 tackles in their careers. It gets even worse considering these guys have combined for 15 NFL seasons, which means they have an average 19.2 tackles per season.
In addition, these past four draft classes have produced a total of only 13.5 sacks and two total interceptions.
Sure, each guy started his career sitting behind a more established player and in some cases is still serving on the second team, but all of them have had their opportunities to play and none have done anything that would make you believe they are capable of being impact NFL players.
The Steelers defense got old quick and they are going to keep getting older.
Right now there’s nothing about the guys on that side of the ball that would give you the feeling this group of Steelers could return to a dominant defense for the next couple of seasons.
If these are the guys that will be in charge of carrying on the Steelers tradition of playing great defense, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to have to score a of points in the future to win games.
It’d been said you can’t truly judge a draft class until three years later. If that’s the case, the Steelers have failed drafting on the defensive side of the ball as for the past four years. They’ve come away with an average group at best.