Steelers Defense Responds in Lengthy Outing

First team dominates into second half

Josh Rowntree
August 25, 2018 - 8:53 pm
Steelers linebacker Vince Williams and defensive end Cam Heyward in a 16-6 preseason win over Tennessee in 2018

Jeff Hathhorn - 93.7 The Fan


Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt broke through the line of scrimmage on Pittsburgh’s first defensive snap of its 16-6 win over Tenneseee Saturday. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota saw the pressure completed a pass for a first down. 

The next snap, Tuitt made sure that Mariota was not so lucky, cutting through the offensive line and slamming Tennessee’s signal caller to the Heinz Field turf. 

The series of plays set the tone for a surprisingly lengthy and utterly dominant showing by Pittsburgh’s first team defense, a week after being torched in a 51-34 loss in Green Bay.

“I think it’s just the standard,” cornerback Joe Haden said of the effort from Pittsburgh which, late in the third quarter, had allowed only 59 yards of offense. 

“This is something that we want to do. As long as we get more and more reps and everyone is healthy going into the season, I think we’ll be just fine.”

Pittsburgh controlled the line of scrimmage, sacking Tennessee quarterbacks six teams and racking up eleven tackles for loss. 

“[Cam] Heyward, Tuitt, [Javon] Hargrave — those are good football players,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. 

Tennessee saw a lot of those three, as Mike Tomlin elected to play his first team defense into the third quarter. 

“I thought they minimized the run and that gave them opportunity to get after the passer and create some turnovers,” Tomlin said.

“It’s just one outing. We’ll continue to grow and put tape out there. What the tape says we are, we are. We’ll let the tape do the talking.”

Heyward was happy to get back to action after not appearing in the first two preseason games. 

“I was kind of glad, because I haven’t played at all,” Heyward said. “I kind of needed the reps. I was just glad that we didn’t surrender any points, got off the field in the second half. It was just a good game.”

When Heyward picked up a sack of Blaine Gabbert in the second quarter, he appeared to motion to the sideline as if to suggest that he had proven his worth and could be removed from the game. 

“No,” Heyward said with a smile. “But it was something close to that. I should have gotten the sack way earlier. I was messing around.”

But Tomlin kept in the first team, including Heyward, until midway through the third quarter. Only Tuitt got to come out after halftime. 

“We only got six sacks,” Heyward said. “I think we could’ve got more. We could’ve left the game with zero points. But I think we’ve just got to be very critical of ourselves, even when we do win. When we do that, we can stack performances on performances.”

“We can always do better,” Tuitt added.

During the week, Tomlin focused on moving on from the Green Bay debacle. His players shared the mentality. 

“It’s the preseason,” Tuitt said. “That’s what we have it for, to put new plays in and have players play with each other, get the chemistry. I think we did solid. It was a great opponent that we went against, but next week should be better.”

“For us to have a chance to go in there and play a good half of football and have more reps under our belt, it’s good for us to be acclimated to what a real game situation could be like.”