Comprising of a mix of Michael Griffin (who was switching safety spots), Robert Johnson, and Al Afalava, the group was nothing short of putrid, and was a big part of a defense that gave up the most points in franchise history.
So what about 2013? So far so good.
Michael Griffin has so far played smart football (what?), getting to where he needs to be to prevent the deep play down the field. He also (knocks on wood) has shown a willingness to stick his nose into tackles, and do it in an effective fashion, harkening back to his rookie year and college days when he was known as a hard-hitter. That is what we need out of him, eliminate the mental mistakes, and support the players around him over the top. Through two NFL games, Griffin is rated as the 13th best safety, breaking even per PFF (+/-0). While he has no doubt benefited from a rejuvenated pass rush, this is a huge step up from dead last in the league last year.
“I feel like we’re going in the right direction, but we’re still trying to get there and put some pieces of the puzzle together,” Griffin said, following Sunday's game against Houston.
Bernard Pollard is the headliner of the group. Since being brought in during FA, Pollard has taken a leadership role on the team and has created a lot of buzz in media circles. But beyond the press focus, and despite the harping on this blog from fans of teams that have parted ways with the big hitter, he has put together two solid performances. While PFF rates his play at a -2.1 through two games, I would go out on a limb and say that he has tackled very well in the open field, and beyond one great catch by AJ which he defended well, he has yet to give up a big play down the field. Nobody is calling him elite in coverage, but so far I like what I see.
George Wilson was another addition by Ruston (IDGAF) Webster over the offseason. I loved. He has been another leader on this team since walking into the building, and I can't stress enough how much of an impact it has made on the depth of this secondary and special teams. PFF has him at 9th among all safeties so far, with an impressive +2.9 when he's on the field. His contribution has already been felt in Pittsburgh when he recovered a well-placed onside kick, and has come in to make some excellent tackles.
We'll see how the group performs going forward, but color me impressed so far. If these veterans can keep up their play, it'll allow the rest of this young defense to keep the Titans in the game against anybody.