Art Rooney: Steelers must improve pass defense

When team president Art Rooney II speaks, the Steelers' front office listens.

After Rooney emphasized a return to Pittsburgh's smashmouth roots a half-decade ago, pass-happy coordinator Bruce Arians was sent packing.

When Rooney expressed concern for Ben Roethlisberger's health, draft picks were devoted to the offensive line while coaches worked with the quarterback to get rid of the ball faster.

As the Steelers embark on the 2016 offseason, Rooney has identified the porous secondary as the priority.

"If you look at us statistically, we weren't where we'd like to be in terms of pass defense, and so that's an area we know we want to improve upon," Rooney said, via the team's official website. "We certainly made progress on defense. We got better as the year went on, but we all agree we need to be better in general as a pass defense.

"I'm not going to suggest we need to do something dramatically different. We invested some draft picks in some players last year we certainly hope are going to take a step forward this coming season and be contributors. Obviously we have some opportunities this offseason in terms of free agency and the draft. It's something we have to keep working on."

If the Steelers are going to knock the Bengals off the AFC North perch, though, they need a physical No. 1 cornerback to push William Gay down to No. 2 and reduce Antwon Blake's snaps. With Will Allen entering his mid-30s, they could also use a safety to pair with Mike Mitchell.

Pittsburgh's roster is as loaded as any on offense. The defensive front seven showed tangible improvement throughout the 2015 season, with breakout stars Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt joining Cameron Heyward and Lawrence Timmons as impact players.

If general manager Kevin Colbert shores up that leaky secondary, we could be discussing Roethlisberger as an MVP candidate next season.

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