Throughout their storied history, the Pittsburgh Steelers have relied heavily on the tenacious nature of the vaunted Steel Curtain Defense. The likes of Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, Rod Woodson, and Troy Polamalu are just a few of the names that were once a part of this historic unit.
Over the past decade, however, the emergence of QB Ben Roethlisberger and the rise of superstars like RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown transformed the Steelers into a scoring machine. While on the other side of the ball, they consistently struggled to stop the opposing offenses, especially in the passing game.
The addition of Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, acquired in a trade last season with the Miami Dolphins, provided a much-needed jolt to the Pittsburgh secondary. After joining the Steelers in week 3, the former first round draft pick exploded for 5 interceptions totalling 130 yards and 1 touchdown. In all, Kevin Butler’s unit forced 38 turnovers including 20 picks and 18 recovered fumbles. Fitzpatrick spearheaded a defensive resurgence that resulted in the squad finishing last season ranked 6th overall.
Pro Bowl Linebacker T.J. Watt was also a big contributor to the Steelers vast improvement on defense, accounting for 4.5 sacks and 2 interceptions while recovering 4 fumbles. Fellow edge rusher Bud Dupree is coming off his best season and while he was signed to the franchise tag, he will be playing for a possible long term contract.
DE Stephon Tuitt, who missed the last ten games in 2019 with a torn pectoral muscle, is also set to make his return in 2020 and will start opposite perennial star Cam Hayward. Devin Bush, who showed some flashes as a rookie, is only entering his second season and Terrell Edmunds will begin his third campaign.
The Steelers managed to keep the majority of their defensive pieces intact and added some new faces through the draft as well. Alex Highsmith, Antione Brooks Jr and Carlos Davis will add depth at key positions for Pittsburgh.
If the defense takes another step forward as many expect, it very well could finish the 2020 season as the number one defense in the NFL. A feat which might just elevate this unit to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the prolific Steel Curtain defenses of the past.