The Pittsburgh Steelers were supposed to have a dominant offense and a middle-of-the-road defense. Don’t look now, but the Steelers’ defense is the one turning heads so far in 2017.
Jump-started by an incredible defensive front, the defense stood tall in Week 6 in their win against the Kansas City Chiefs. Just knowing the team didn’t allow a first down until almost the second half is downright amazing considering the opponent.
With that said, time to take a look at Steelers news outside the walls of BTSC:
The Steelers entered Sunday with one of the NFL's highest-ranked defenses, but it didn't feel like it.
Not after the team lost two of its past three.
Not after Jacksonville torched it for an unseemly 231 rushing yards last week.
Not after the best quarterback it faced all season might have been the unheralded Blake Bortles (three of the five they faced are currently backups).
After Sunday's dominating performance in a 19-13 win at Arrowhead Stadium, though, the Steelers defense carried a swagger commensurate with its statistics.
“We finally got to show everybody on TV who we are,” defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. “ … To do it against Kansas City, who was a great, undefeated team, is awesome.”
Though the fourth quarter somewhat sullied the performance, the defense was nothing short of dominating against the Chiefs.
Kansas City had just two first downs through its first-seven possessions. It netted 25 yards on its first 23 offensive snaps.
The only three points the Chiefs got up to that point came as a result of the field position Kansas City got when the Steelers botched a free-kick return following a safety.
The best team in football — its highest-scoring team — was rendered inept by the Steelers.
“Honestly, we didn't know it was that (dominant),” cornerback Joe Haden said, “but in the third quarter we see stats, too. We look up there, we see that, and we just try to get after it.”
Even after a fourth quarter in which many of the numbers were squandered, the Steelers defense still held when needed.
During the final drive of the game — after a pass to Demarcus Robinson put Kansas City into the Steelers' territory needing a touchdown to steal a win — the Steelers tightened up.
The Chiefs netted minus-8 yards on its final four snaps: three incomplete passes and a James Harrison sack of Alex Smith on third down.
“I thought our guys maintained composure,” coach Mike Tomlin said.“When that urgency kicks in in those moments, what I think whether or not you stand up just really depends on that composure element of it, and I thought our guys did a nice job.”
No, really, it will. After a 24-hour stretch of torrential rain and whipping winds out here in Dorothy-land, the weather forecast for the Steelers’ semi-showdown with the last-of-the-undefeated Chiefs today calls for 100 percent sunshine and a sweet kickoff temp of 61.
So, you know, go do something with it.
The Steelers have an extraordinary opportunity here. They can flip a whole lot of wrongs into a whole lot of rights:
• Ben Roethlisberger is coming off five interceptions, and he was bad. But he’s also been much worse, if one seriously studies those sequences and grasps what all went awry on each one. And when he’s had a bad game — meaning the six times he’s thrown three or more interceptions — he’s 6-0 the following week.
• Intangibly but maybe more important, if doubts about Roethlisberger’s commitment to continuing his football career are grounded in so much as a sliver of reality, that’d be poison for all concerned. But if he’s as focused, as fired up as he’s come across these past few days … there would be your biggest flip. What a boon a victory Sunday would be for the franchise quarterback. Just picture it.
Antonio Brown caught the winning touchdown pass for the Steelers on Sunday. The NFL’s leading receiver had eight catches for 155 yards for yet another 100-yard receiving game, his franchise record 33rd in his eight-year career.
But if the ball didn’t take a fortuitous bounce into his hands on his 51-yard touchdown the spotlight would have been on Brown for other reasons. He made two crucial mistakes in the game.
The first came early in the first quarter after the Steelers took a 2-0 lead after a Chiefs safety. Brown failed to field the free kick. It bounced behind him and the Chiefs recovered.
“The kick was kicked short,” Brown said. “I was coming up full speed on it. The ball took a bounce, went in the other direction. “We have to find a way to get the ball in that situation. We have to recover the ball and get us another possession in the game. We’re lucky it didn’t deteriorate the outcome of the game. We have a lot of plays we can get better from.”
The other mistake came early in the second quarter when he stopped a route, which led to Marcus Peterson intercepting Ben Roethlisberger.
“In that situation, I have to get better,” Brown said. “I can’t leave Ben out to dry. I have to keep coming.”
Luckily for Brown, the Chiefs could only manage to score three points off those mistakes. In the end, Brown made up for the mistakes by providing the winning points. After Chiefs corner Phillip Gaines bobbled the ball into the air, Brown tracked it right into his waiting arms.
“A.B. made a great play,” Roethlisberger said. “Did he really or is it just him being A.B., you know? He’s the best in the world. We saw a matchup on their nickel guy, and I wanted the back shoulder a little bit more. It kind of went up the field a little more than I wanted. He had a chance to make a play, but the ball got on him pretty quick, and I thought the worst-case scenario was the ball would be incomplete. But A.B. is going to make a play, and he did just that. It was fun to watch it happen.”