Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Ben Roethlisberger is the unchallenged leader of this team. Starting in Week 14, though, the defense will become the catalyst behind the Steelers making a powerful run at the AFC playoffs, and once there, will be the team no one wants to play.
While he's still the leader of this team, the big dogs have been eating in his absence. Those dogs are chowing down when Big Ben or the multitude of other Steelers quarterbacks who have played in his absence are on the sideline.
This game is about the Steelers' defense.
It's about the defensive unit allowing a ridiculous opponent completion rate of 50 percent over its last seven games. It's about an edge pass rush that's starting to get to the quarterback on a far more frequent basis than they have since 2010. It's about the ability for them to cover like glue down the field while destroying quarterbacks mentally and physically.
LaMarr who? Jason Worilds leads this team in sacks. Troy what? The Steelers can play press man and zone with one or two deep safeties.
Haters complained about the age of this team. The Steelers responded with what very well could end up being the most talented pair of cornerbacks this franchise has seen in decades. San Diego will get a first-hand look at them today. Along with Polamalu, back and with a game under his belt after missing much of this season with a calf injury.
James Harrison was too old. Now that his knee is taking form, he is regaining a form few were able to stop. And he's coming after Phillip Rivers. Same goes for Casey Hampton, who may not be the All Pro-level zero technique nose he's been in the past, but he's vastly improved from where he started this season, and it's helping the Steelers' solidify the A gaps, thus forcing runs away from the line of scrimmage, right where Harrison, Timmons and Ryan Clark can make plays.
Lawrence Timmons is having, quietly, his finest season, and shows all signs of becoming a scarily dominant player in this league. He's also shouldered much of the big play production in Polamalu's absence.
Regardless what the moron "John from Buffalo" thinks, the Browns did not "demolish" the Steelers. Pittsburgh's defense beat the snot out of them. And they made them angry. They took it out on Baltimore, suffocating the Ravens' usually unflappable offense in Baltimore, holding them to 97 yards in the second half.
Get excited about Roethlisberger's return, but be prepared for the defense to firmly entrench themselves as the main reason why this team is going to make a run into the playoffs, despite a week ago having entered Week 13 at 6-5 with five games to play and riding a two-game losing streak.