I’m going to just come right out and say it, the defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers is the weakest part of the whole team. It is plagued with underachieving players along with lack of depth and is just completely overrated.
The Steelers base defense includes having only three defensive lineman on the field. Their job is to take up space so that the linebackers behind them can get free. In this aspect of the game they do a good job, but if the Steelers want to have success on the defensive side of the ball they need the defensive line to do more than just take up space. They need them to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and they need to make more plays in the backfield.
On the left side of the defensive line the starter is Evander “Ziggy” Hood. Hood was drafted 32nd overall in 2009 and began his career backing up Aaron Smith. Ziggy got the starting job last season where he recorded three sacks and 42 tackles and a block kick. It was the former first round pick’s best season. The expectations and the bar has been set high for Hood and unfortunately he hasn’t been able to perform to those expectations. In five seasons he has only eight and a half sacks but he has a 101 tackles. But in his defense he played defensive tackle in college and is still learning the defensive end position. Hood just needs to start playing to his potential.
The Steelers this year will be starting a new nose tackle. Steve McLendon takes over the position from five time pro bowler Casey Hampton. The shoes that McLendon has to fill are big. While Hampton was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh his production had gone down in major proportions over the past few seasons, and McLendon was able to impress last season as Hampton’s backup. McLendon played all 16 games last season where he recorded two sacks and seven tackles. This season will be McLendon’s first season as the full time starter, and the undrafted free agent plays with a chip on his shoulder and that chip should help the Steelers defense.
Playing on the right side of the defensive line is one of the most recognizable players in the NFL. Brett Keisel is the starting right defensive end and is most widely known for his amazing beard. Keisel finished last season 4.5 sacks and has had three or more sacks in each of the last four seasons. But should we really fear “Da Beard”? Keisel has never recorded more than six sacks in a season and he has only had 50 tackles once. Although the one time pro bowler has statistically been better in recent seasons he still hasn’t had many impact plays since his interception return for a touchdown in 2010. The 11 year veteran still serves an important role on the team though he is one of the few vocal leaders in the Steelers locker room and has been a model of consistency only missing two games in the last two seasons.
The Steelers defensive line is slowly getting better but this year especially they need to help the linebackers create pressure on opposing quarterbacks.