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Steelers defense puts up inspiring performance, regardless of outcome

The Steelers had six sacks and three interceptions in their 13-10 loss to Cincinnati in Week 16 - a loss that eliminated the Steelers from playoff competition. But the performances from some of the younger defenders on the team gives them a sense of optimism for the future.

Jared Wickerham

For all fans outside Pittsburgh who met Keenan Lewis this season, we'd like to introduce Cortez Allen.

He's the guy who had two interceptions - one of which on an unbelievable play started by Josh Victorian tipping the ball back to him from three yards out of bounds - and a forced fumble of Bengals WR A.J. Green.

You'll see him among the nominees for Defensive Player of the Week.

You already know Lawrence Timmons, the guy who's two sacks and 10 tackles will put him on that same list with Allen. While they won't win it (incidentally, it'll probably go to Bengals DT Geno Atkins, and rightfully so), the were just two players who put up outstanding performances with the season on the line.

It certainly wasn't their fault the Steelers lost this game. They had nothing to do with Bengals CB Leon Hall's pick six in the first half. They didn't choose to let Shaun Suisham push his career long field goal a yard long in a stadium that only sees successful 50-yard field goals once every two seasons. All they did was completely destroy the Bengals' offense, forcing them to capitalize on two Ben Roethlisberger turnovers for 10 of their 13 points.

Keenan Lewis extended his league lead on passes defensed with two more. Allen had three of those, too.

NT Steve McLendon (half sack) and Josh Victorian (two passes defensed) barely played and they contributed. This was as strong a defensive performance as this defensively deep team has seen in the last three years.

Did I mention none of these players are over 26 years of age? That old defense defense the Steelers have sure seems to be getting younger.

As for the know Mr. Polamalu already. I'm assuming you noticed him time two snap counts to shoot gaps and land on Andy Dalton for two huge plays. He didn't look as ancient as you thought.

And Brett Keisel. He's 1.5 sacks may have paled in comparison to Timmons' individual performance, but he contributed against the run at an outstanding level.

Bengals running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis had been averaging over 100 yards a game in his last five outings. He had less yards (14) than he had carries (15). Keisel was a huge part of that.

Things don't always work out, though, and while the Steelers will not be a part of the playoffs this season, we just wanted to throw a few names across everyone so you can get them on your radar. Those younger players may be a bit more well-known by this time next year.