Here's the Yahoo Team Summary for Pittsburgh:
Compared to the quick summary for last year's Detroit:
Yep, your Detroit Lions were a better offensive team, but the real difference was on the other side of the ball. That's the whole story, end of story, and the real story.
ESPN and or Pro Football Focus believe the Steelers will have the best defensive line in the NFL in 2021. The Lions that were 30th last year are projected to improve to 24th, but the write up of who they have playing is wrong. Could the Lions improve if they reviewed the right or most likely players, and perhaps considered the depth their new scheme will produce?
Just had to mention that the Vikings, which were ranked 31st last year, will be getting two of their players back in 2021 and are projected to 15th best. Talk about leaving the Lions in the dust! Well, I suppose 24th next year is still a lot better than 30th. Yet, I can't help but wonder, what if the analysts had considered the new scheme and the players that will be in position rather than the old foursome that they considered?
I'd like to cut to the chase and compare the Steelers front five to the Lions. That's what it's going to be all about in most people's opinions. If the Lions can have a big breakthrough on the D-Line the rest of the defense should make major improvements in results.
RDE - TJ Watt versus Trey Flowers. How good is Flowers? Watt is projected to be the best end or edge in the NFL, but how much of that prestige is built upon the configuration? Flowers has to overcome the injury bug that has derailed him the past two seasons. If he does not, I doubt the Lions will retain him, and we can project who the Lions will be looking for in next year's draft. If Flowers regains the status afforded to him when the Lions signed him as a prized free agent, and the new scheme is what makes the big difference in forcing pressures, then perhaps the Lions might just catch up to how good the Steelers are ranked with their D-Line.
LDE - Alex Highsmith replace Bud Dupree this year, and is compared to Romeo Okwara. Last year Okwara made a major jump in production. Can he continue to make improvements and build on last year? QB passer pressure seems to be the key metric in evaluating how successful a player on the outside is.Passer ratings during high pressure drop to about 68 from a norm of 103 when there is not high pressure. In my opinion, Okwara can improve and be relatively comparable if not be better than the incoming Highsmith.
IRDT- Stephon Tuitt versus either Levi Onwuzurike or Da'Shawn Hand. To be fair the back-up for the Steelers is Chris Wormley. I would say expectations are very high for Onwuzurike. He will be tested to show consistency but his claim is to be a top producing disruptor that will bring havoc to the pocket. Hand also has had his moments as a very reliable and excellent pass rusher, but he's suffered repeated injuries so the Lions will be considering whether Nick Williams might be a more dependable back-up.
ILDT - Cameron Heyward versus Michael Brockers. I'm glad the Lions traded for Brockers to make this comparison somewhat fair. Heyward has been a notorious member of the Steelers for a long time (age 32). Brockers is the longest serving player in Rams' history at this position (age 30). Both players bring excellent production to the position and it might be fair to say Brockers has an edge relative to age. Both teams appear to have several possible back-ups to insure the position remains viable.
NG - Isaiah Biggs seems likely to asume the role for the Steelers with Tyson Alualu, 34, probably being a secondary player. The Lions throw a pair of their youngest linemen into this role: Alim McNeill and John Penisini. McNeill fits the role to a tee and has outstanding quickness to rival that of Aaron Donald of the LA Rams. Of course, whether that quickness alone translates to the results of a Donald is a stretch, but it's a positive sign at least. Penisini is more of an immovable object, but might show more inclination to rush if he faces fewer double or triple teams as he did in last year's formation. Seems like there's room to hope for a good situational match-up between these players, although experience does belong to the Steelers.
This scheme will allow for the MIKE to occasionally also rush the passer. Devin Bush returns from being hurt last season and the Lions will primary rely upon Jaime Collins in this role. Derreck Barnes, Jahlani Tavai, Jalen Maybin-Reeves, and Alex Anzalone are other possible Lion options. Bush is an excellent young talent, but he is often described as small. Collins is a swiss army knife of linebackers that seems to always excel. I like this comparison and feel that Detroit doesn't really have a bad linebacker corp, just a bad reputation that stems from poor coaching, a poor schema, and it will become apparent in 2021 just how good the Lions can be.
The Steelers defensive depth chart shows these players:
Here's a corrected scheme overlay of the Lions for 2021:
I think things are about to get a lot more interesting. What do you think?