Sacks and takeaways were the Pittsburgh Steelers’ modus operandi, or M.O., in 2019. The team had the league’s highest marks in both categories, and quickly became a top tier defense throughout the season.
But they aren’t satisfied with what they’ve done.
As Cam Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt and Joe Haden convene together in Orlando, FL for the annual Pro Bowl, they are already talking about 2020, and how the defense could be even better.
What else could they do? They want to add more “zeroes”.
“I think to fully take over a game, to completely shut teams out,” Watt told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “We didn’t get any zeroes on the board. We want to be able to shut teams out and control the game defensively. That is what sets defenses apart, especially once you get the takeaways. You want to be able to lay the goose egg on teams and make sure they aren’t scoring any points and help the offense out as much as you can.”
Shut outs are rare in today’s NFL, but it doesn’t mean the team won’t be doing everything they can to secure victory in the upcoming season. After a year where everyone who followed the team knew if the offense could somehow put up 20 points, they would likely win.
By the end of the year, if the offense could just hang 17 on the opposition it would likely mean victory. But the season ended on a 3-game losing streak where the Steelers scored just 10 points in every contest down the stretch.
Despite the way the season ended, players are already excited for the upcoming season, and seeing just how good this defense can be.
“I am excited about it,” said Fitzpatrick. “I had a whole lot of fun this year. It’s a young group of guys. We have a bright future together, we’ll be able to grow together. That is the most important thing, and go out there and have fun.”
“We just have a lot of fun,” said Watt. “We’re young and have a lot of confidence. We play with a lot of swagger. Just having a lot of fun. This past year we had so much fun just flying around. It’s a lot better when you are able to create those turnovers. We just want to continue to build on that stuff.”
The Steelers defenders who are at the Pro Bowl plan on using their time wisely and picking each other’s brains on what they can change to make sure they do their part the 2020 season doesn’t end abruptly after Week 17.
“These last couple of weeks after the season we had time to think about it, what I can do better, what we can do better as a team,” said Fitzpatrick. “Me, Joe and T.J. are going to get together and talk and pick each other’s brains and think about what we can do better as leaders, teammates and a defense to improve our season, make the playoffs next year and continue to grow.”
It is hard to fathom the Steelers defense being any better than what it was last year, especially with expected departures for players like Javon Hargrave, but if this core nucleus of players can continue to thrive it will only lead to bigger and better things for the Steelers in 2020.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they progress through another long offseason.