clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Injuries on Steelers defense may have revealed the explosion they've been missing

Whether it's addition by subtraction or just the development of a few players, the Steelers defense looked tough and even explosive in a rout of Cleveland.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it's not about age.

The young Shamarko Thomas goes down, Will Allen plays well in two straight games, including a great open field tackle on the Browns' opening drive of the second half, forcing a punt.

He also recovered a fumble and nearly scored after William Gay nearly killed Jason Campbell on a sack in the third quarter.

Brett Keisel goes out, Cameron Heyward continues his rapid development, clearly emerging as a future star on this defense, while Ziggy Hood builds up some capital for his resume.

LaMarr Woodley, one of the league's best pass rushers is on the bench two straight games, and Jason Worilds doesn't seize his opportunity; he grabs it by the throat and chokes the marrow out of it.

Steve McLendon goes down, Heyward gets a sack from his nose tackle position.

All the while, Worilds racked up an eye-popping 10 quarterback hits in the team's last two games.

This is addition by subtraction. It's the dividends from a late first round pick three years ago and a second round pick four years ago starting to pay, and it has nothing to do with a high draft pick next year.

How's that go? It was in you all along?

With the Steelers' defense gaining momentum, that Black and Gold Brick Road may lead to the postseason. It may also lead to a run up the leaderboard in terms of statistics. If Campbell, a savvy veteran, wasn't quick to get rid of the ball (despite his obvious pain), Worilds may have equalled his career statistics just off Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. A team plagued with a lack of pass rush for over two seasons is landing - and landing often. Adjustments made to the per-down assignments of Jarvis Jones are dramatically increasing his rush production from "nothing" to "something." Heyward is rushing from three gaps, straight up and off stunts, and is a load to handle - even highly touted pass protector Joe Thomas struggled with Heyward at times.

Between Heyward, Worilds and Jones, the energy level is through the roof - it's like a young Brenston Bucker, Greg Lloyd and Chad Brown flying around the field (energy, not production...yet).

It's weird how it can work, but perhaps for the first time in the injury-riddled last two and a half seasons in Pittsburgh, injuries are becoming an asset.

More from Behind the Steel Curtain: