After Thursday’s court ruling that a few people are talking about, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be in the lineup Sept. 10 when the Patriots open the season vs. the Steelers.
That’s not great news for a Steelers defense that’s been retooling on the fly and has gotten gashed in the preseason. In four preseason first halves the Steelers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 80 percent of their passes while compiling an interception-free 122.3 quarterback rating.
The Steelers have a new defensive coordinator in Keith Butler and are transitioning to a new scheme following the firing of Dick LeBeau last winter. It’s just the preseason, but the Bills last weekend racked up 542 yards on seven plays of 20 yards or longer against the Steelers.
“(Our players) need the experience together, and even if it is experience of failing, it is better than not being out there,” Butler told reporters this week. “You have to put some stock in the preseason because you have to see who can do what and you evaluate like that.”
It’s not all about scheme and what’s new. The Steelers ranked 18th in total defense last season, 27th against the pass, and their 33 sacks were 10 fewer than they recorded the previous season.
Before next week, the Steelers are hoping for reinforcements from within. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons has been out three weeks with a toe injury; defensive end Stephon Tuitt twisted his ankle during the third preseason game against the Packers, an injury initially feared to be significant; and safety Mike Mitchell has battled a sore hamstring and a twisted ankle that has forced him to miss most of the preseason.
The Steelers visited with former Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor one day after his release, but the team’s medical staff reportedly doesn’t believe Taylor’s knee is healthy enough. The team drafted outside linebacker Bud Dupree in the first round last spring and cornerback Senquez Golson in the second, but Golson is out for the year with a shoulder injury. Cornerback Brandon Boykin was added in an Aug. 1 trade with the Eagles.
So, Butler and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will take what they have seen and the players who are available and get to work this weekend on defending the Brady-led Patriots. Preseason results are quickly forgotten, but a remade defense trying to keep up with Brady in the first game figures to be a tall task.