The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive backfield is going to look very different this season. Gone are Terrell Edmunds, Cameron Sutton, and Arthur Maulet, and in are Keanu Neal, Patrick Peterson, and Joey Porter Jr. With new players likely receiving heavy doses of playing time it will be important for the secondary to work on communication and build chemistry. According to Neal, a veteran safety, that’s been a big thrust of the defensive backs in OTAs.
Neal spoke with the media today and Ashley Kaiser of WTRF noted Neal’s comments about working on communication and building chemistry.
“You’ve got to build the chemistry,” Neal told reporters. “The communication piece comes with that, talking on the field. That’s what OTAs are about for us is just building that chemistry with the guys and getting a feel for everybody. Getting a feel for the defense because I’m new here. There are a few other guys who are new here. So, we are just gelling, learning together, and having growing pains, making plays together…It’s all part of it. It’s been good.”
Neal is coming from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a different defense and teammates. For Neal to succeed he is going to need to be on the same page as his fellow defensive backs, and in particular Minkah Fitzpatrick, as he’ll rotate with Damontae Kazee as the safety opposite Fitzpatrick.
No matter how good a scheme a defense has, if the players are not on the same page they are prone to blowing coverages. Pittsburgh has a good defensive scheme — Steelers Depot’s own Alex Kozora did a great job breaking down how the defense changes up their looks post snap to fool quarterbacks — and with Neal being new he has to learn how to communicate well in those situations and be comfortable that his teammates will be in the right place.
Like Neal said this is what OTAs are for, to learn how each player likes to communicate and to build chemistry. The Steelers have built their 2023 team around the defense and because of that it will be crucial for them to be on their game at all times.
There are still more OTAs to come, in addition to mandatory minicamp, training camp, and preseason games to iron all these things out. It may not be perfect come the beginning of training camp but with the emphasis the team has put on this hopefully there will be limited communication issues come Week One.