Our D played fairly well the last 4-5 weeks of 2012. So we should be able to compare the personnel and get a pretty clear picture of the problem.
Here's the difference in the starting lineups.
2012 - 2013
Lewis - Gay
Hampton - McClendon
Harrison - Worilds/JJ
Foote - Williams
Hood - Heyward
I distinctly remember thinking at the end of last season that Casey and James were rounding out into form and that's why our D was looking so good. Could the play of their replacements really be making this dramatic a difference?
I'd say Lewis was clearly better than Gay although Gay's a decent replacement. Heyward's a huge upgrade already over Hood, although Hood played well in December of last year.
Foote's by no means an all pro, but he's steady and Williams is currently in over his head. Could it simply be we didn't have anyone ready to replace the older versions of Hampton, Harrison, and Foote?
The there's the domino effect of McClendon/Williams play that's making Timmons worse. Forcing Troy out of the secondary into the box and leaving Ryan Clark as a single high safety all game is making Clark worse.
Woodley actually looks like he's playing better, Troy looks better being healthier, and Ike/Kesiel look about the same.
So there's gotta be a significant drop off in some of these other guys given the level the D has dropped. Could it just be that McClendon, JJ/Worilds, and Williams have been awful thus far? And if we get a real NT and let the 2 rookies develop we'll get back to typical Steelers' D in no time?
It looks like this D has dropped off the planet in terms of production, but is it possible just one small change in personnel and time could turn things 180 in a heartbeat? Are we really that far off or does it just look really bad and we're close to being good again?