What got lost amid all the review-gate, extra-spike-gate and all the other gates that took place as the Seahawks were desperately trying to tie Pittsburgh at the end of regulation last Sunday night at Heinz Field was the remarkable clutch play that cornerback James Pierre made...again.
That’s right, and even as the loose football was briefly bouncing around the turf of Heinz Field, don’t think I didn’t immediately take note of the fact that Pierre was about to be the game-saving hero in a second-straight Steelers victory. Just one week earlier, Pierre saved the day when he intercepted Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the two-yard line with mere seconds left. Now, this? Is this James Pierre or Troy Polamalu.
Anyway, that's what I was contemplating as the football was loose on the field and about to be recovered by a Steeler.
Unfortunately, D.K. Metcalf, the receiver whose clutches were loosened of the ball thanks to Pierre’s clutchness, must have said his prayers that morning instead of his usual muscle-defining workout. Yep, a Seahawk teammate fell on the loose ball, thus saving Metcalf from wrath and jump-starting all of the controversies, while also elevating Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin’s blood pressure in the process.
But at least Pierre showed yet again that he could be one of those defenders. You know what kind of defender I’m talking about; someone who always seems to create or come up with a turnover just at the right time.
The Steelers have one of those along the front seven, and I believe you know him as T.J. Watt. But Watt can’t come up with the game-saving play every week—even if he did in overtime. Someone else has to develop that knack, that skill. That’s right, I said skill. I realize a turnover can often be the result of luck if loose the football doesn’t bounce in a necessary direction, but don’t underestimate the talent for being in the right place at the right time for interceptions or having just the right chop to create fumbles.
The Steelers defense spent years being on the wrong side of “luck” when it came to creating takeaways, and so many folks cited that factor as the reason why.
But it wasn’t luck. It was a lack of playmakers on defense. Defensive backs were dreadful at being in the right place for interceptions. Pass-rushers didn’t seem to have the “chop” down.
The defense’s ability to create “luck” was lacking.
Fortunately, Pierre, despite his lack of pedigree and ideal athletic attributes, might already have the natural ability to create the kind of opportunities a defense sometimes needs when the breaks are beating the boys and someone needs to step up and step up now.
Nobody can be in the right place all the time, but James Pierre is developing the knack for doing that more often than not.