Rankings Reveal Much, But Not All

Believe the Steelers have the No. 1 pass defense in the league? Really? Well, there's no doubt they've improved since the Super Bowl. Ryan Clark breaks it down with Mike Prisuta.

The Jaguars are No. 32 in the NFL in total offense – that would be dead last, worse than Indianapolis and Seattle – and what they're capable of is on tape.

The same can be said for the Steelers' No. 1-ranked pass defense.

In Jacksonville's case, much of the damage on video is self-inflicted.

Marcedes Lewis drops a pass in the end zone and Jack Del Rio kicks a field goal from the 1-yard line last Sunday against Cincinnati.

Or, Blaine Gabbert misses an open Lewis in the end zone and Del Rio kicks a field goal from the 2-yard line against Cincinnati.

Or, Brad Meester snaps the ball before Gabbert is ready and a third-and-1 from the Jacksonville 42 with 1:19 remaining in a three-point game turns into a fumble recovery for the Bengals and the final nail in the Jaguars' coffin.

For the Steelers, it's not so much what they've done as it is what has been done to them that still stands as representative.

The tape isn't as recent as last Sunday, but to Ryan Clark the wounds opened by Aaron Rodgers last February in Dallas are still fresh.

"You have to take that responsibility," Clark said, speaking for the Steelers' secondary. "A lot of guys have a lot of pride back there. We took a lot of heat for what happened in the Super Bowl, and rightfully so. They passed the ball a lot.

"He did throw for 300 yards. He did throw for, I think, three touchdowns, and that's us. We have to stop that. If you have an opportunity to defend your goal line you need to, and we didn't do that."

That Rodgers has since completed 71.7 percent of his passes, with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions, and has amassed a passer rating of 122.9 has not been lost on the Steelers' free safety.

"I still say any other quarterback that day, with the same coverage we had, I think we win the game," Clark said. "I think he threw some balls that I didn't expect him to be able to throw and that I have never really seen anyone throw.

"He made a lot of plays, but that's over now. We have to focus on being better as a secondary and a defense."

Inspired by the video horror show that was Super Bowl XLV, the Steelers have been working to get better since training camp, Clark maintained. They've been trying to communicate better, and they've been trying to become more aware of where the help is coming from in their coverages.

That No. 1 ranking against the pass is a reflection of the progress they've made as a secondary.

The one interception the Steelers have registered, a tip-pick by linebacker LaMarr Woodley last Sunday against Tennessee, reveals how far they still have to go as a defense.

"We feel like we're a good secondary," Clark said. "We have to make more plays, though. Right now we're not making plays on the ball to give our offense opportunities to get easy scores. That's the thing were focusing on, not giving up the big play and making some big plays ourselves."

That's the next step in the progression for the NFL's No. 1-ranked pass defense.

Accomplishing as much against the NFL's No. 32 offense won't mean the Steelers are ready for Aaron Rodgers, but it would be another step in the right direction.

Steel City Insider Top Stories