The defense has been the biggest surprise of all. I expected growth out of Artie Burns and Sean Davis. I expected Mike Mitchell to be what he’s been, and I certainly had no inclination that Joe Haden would be the second corner. The surprise though, has been how good the defense has been against the pass this season. I did not expect a number one ranking at any point in the season. I must admit, I think that will fall a bit and average out around 10th or 11th when the season finishes.
Part of the reason for the improved pass defense statistics is the improvement to the rush. The Steelers have 26 sacks so far this season, and the biggest surprise out of that number? James Harrison only has one of those. He isn’t playing much at all, which I am still shocked by. Sure, T.J. Watt is a big reason why and has played well through the first half of his rookie campaign, but I still never would have suspected Harrison would be a relative non-factor.
Ryan Shazier, Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have all been key factors on defense, as expected. I’ve been surprised by Vince Williams as I felt like he’d have more tackles to this point, but I expect a bigger second half from him.
Through the first half, the team has had a few ups and downs and I don’t think anybody suspected the offense would be the weaker unit on the team, but they have still managed to find their way to 6-2; atop both the AFC North and the AFC in general. They have a slightly tougher second half to go, specifically a showdown with the New England Patriots at Heinz Field on Dec. 17, but I expect this team to improve to a 12-4 record and first round bye when the regular season ends.
Follow @NewPghCourier on Twitter https://twitter.com/NewPghCourier