The Real Key To The Steelers' Streak: Defense

Stars are aplenty on offense, but the Steelers' defense has kept them winning

Matt Koll
November 19, 2018 - 11:21 am
TJ Watt tackling Leonard Fournette

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan)- Whew.

The Steelers squeaked out a win on the road against the team they lost twice to last season, including once that ended their season. It was an ugly way to get there, but after falling behind 16-0 in the 3rd quarter, the Steelers put together three touchdown-scoring drives in the final quarter and a half to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday. 

It's easy to look back and marvel at the way Ben Roethlisberger overcame what was one of his worst starts of his career and turned it into one of his best comebacks. How JuJu Smith-Schuster made two incredible catches down the field to keep drives alive. How Vance McDonald went up and plucked the ball over a defender in the back of the endzone. How Antonio Brown overcame constant harrassment by cornerback Jalen Ramsey for a long TD and a crucial 25-yard catch to the 2 yardline setting up the game-winning score.

But what The Fan Morning Show says is the real key to Pittsburgh victories and the biggest difference between the Steelers of the first four weeks when they started the season 1-2-1 and now, winners of six straight games, is the defense. 

The turnaround has been sudden and deadly. The pass rush, including interior lineman like Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave and are constantly getting pressure up the middle. The oft-blitzing outside linebackers in TJ Watt and Bud Dupree are attacking with power and speed. The drastically improved pass rush has allowed for this defense to work like it did when the Steelers were winning Super Bowls in 2005 and 2008. 

Pressure the QB's, stuff the run, force quick decisions that lead to turnovers, don't allow the average secondary to have to cover for very long, exposing them for being well, average. 

The Steelers defense is playing like a Steelers defense again. 

Some of this has coincided with cornerback Artie Burns' benching as well, which Chris Mack and Jim Colony say is no coincidence at all. Coty Sensabaugh looks like he is settling into his role opposite of Joe Haden. 

The guys said that the defense showed up yesterday in shutting things down in the second half. After running for 75 yards in the first half, Leonard Fournette could only muster 20 more on 14 second half carries and the Steelers held Jacksonville to field goals when their offense wasn't providing any help. 

The game got have gotten out of hand (a la Kansas City) when the Steelers got off to their slow start, but it was 9-0 instead of 21-0 and even when it became 16-0 later in the 3rd, it was still only a two-possession game. 

Yes, it was a Blake Bortles-led Jaguars offense and Bortles looked particularly awful in this one. But, going back to the beginning of the steak, the Steelers defense has held their opponents in check. Chris and Jim say that in today's NFL and with the Steelers offense as prolific as it is, if you can hold teams to 21 points or fewer, you've given your team a chance to win. 

The Steelers defense has done just that. 

Falcons: 17 points. Bengals: 21 points. Browns: 18 points (first game Artie Burns was benched). Ravens: 16 points. Panthers: 21 points. Jaguars: 16 points. 

This all being said, the Steelers defense has incredibly tough matchups against prolific offenses with the Chargers (Dec 2), Patriots (Dec 16) and Saints (Dec 23) all still left on the schedule. 

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