Steelers defense bent in the second quarter, but it never broke in a 37-27 victory

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers defense gave up 271 yards and 27 points in a crazy second quarter that helped transform a 14-0 first quarter lead into a 27-20 halftime deficit. However, thanks to an out-of-left field stifling second half performance, the defense proved to be just good enough in a 37-27 Pittsburgh triumph.

Was it just me or did the Steelers defense play really, really well in the second half? The reason I ask this is because I had all kinds of critical ideas in mind for a post-game article, as I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during halftime of Pittsburgh's 37-27 victory over the Lions at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon.

I was going to really hammer Dick LeBeau's unit, and every idea had a central theme: "The Steelers defense really, really sucks."

I mean, could you blame me? Two weeks ago, LeBeau's charges were getting absolutely embarrassed by Tom Brady and Co. in the 55-31 loss that included 610 total yards allowed--like the 55 points, the most given up in franchise history--and there they were in the second quarter at Heinz Field allowing 271 yards and 27 points to a similarly high-powered offense, this after the Steelers offense actually showed up and scored two touchdowns on its first two possessions of the game to take an early 14-0 lead.

All-in-all, the Lions totaled 368 yards in the first half, which meant that in the previous six quarters against quarterbacks not named E.J. Manuel, the defense had yielded  82 points and 978 yards in total offense.

Of course, one of those quarterbacks was a future Hall of Famer, and the other one, Matthew Stafford, had a Transformer (Calvin Johnson) as his main target, but still, that's a lot of points and yards allowed.

To compound the problems for an already struggling unit, Brett Keisel and LaMarr Woodley, two productive veterans, had been inactive for Sunday's game, due to injury. It also didn't help that Stafford had a pretty clean pocket in the first half, and that Ike Taylor dropped two fairly easy interceptions (even if it is pretty common, it still really, really didn't help).

What would the second half bring? Would the Lions continue on their 27 points a quarter pace and put up 81 for the day?

As it turned out, Detroit's points per quarter average took a big hit, thanks to a mostly unexpected defensive effort by the Steelers in the second half that included zero points given up, 83 total yards allowed and two gigantic takeaways.

I don't know what adjustments were made at halftime, but I'm sure Taylor got some more help over the top in covering the dominant Johnson. Actually, he did, because one of those two takeaways was recorded by veteran safety Will Allen, who intercepted a pass late in the game that was intended for Johnson and looked very similar to the 79 yard touchdown catch by Johnson in the second quarter when Taylor had no safety help over the top. Allen's pick paved the way for the clinching touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery, the offense's version of Allen, that gave the Steelers a two-score lead with less than three minutes remaining.

It wasn't a masterful defensive effort by LeBeau's gang--the problems are still great, as Megatron's 179 yards and two touchdowns seemed to come about almost effortlessly in that first half--but if Sunday's exciting victory proved anything, it's that a defense doesn't necessarily have to be dominant for a team to win in today's NFL. If it's opportunistic (the Steelers won the turnover battle, 3-0) and simply doesn't break, it can still be good enough to win when all is said and done.

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