Not all victories, or losses for that matter, are created equally. Either way, each one only adds a single digit to either side of the ledger, that is true. However, one could argue that divisional games are doubly important. Especially since the Steelers had already failed to hold home field in a Week 3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a shockingly disappointing disaster of a game punctuated by the absence of both starting OLBs, T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
Losing a home game in the division usually requires you steal a road victory at a later date if you want to contend for the division crown. After the Steelers waltzed into FirstEnergy Stadium on Old Hallows Eve to face QB crushing DE Myles Garrett doing his best Grim Reaper impersonation, and strolled out victorious even without the services of a functional field goal kicker for the second half of the game, there is only one thing to say: Mission accomplished.
The Steelers won a game that few gave them much of a chance to win. After Alex Collins and a depleted Seahawks team ran the ball seemingly at will against the Steelers in the third quarter of their last game prior to the bye, most of the talking heads in the national and local sports media were predicting a dominant performance by the Browns league best running game. It would take a Herculean effort by the Steelers defense, especially for the "at least on paper" overmatched defensive line, to stave off the imminent destruction. Thankfully, games aren't decided on paper, or by the predictions of the overwhelming majority who are paid so handsomely to know such things. The Steelers went out and proved all the naysayers wrong, yet again.
Steelers Stock Trending Up: Trusting the process
Contrary to what a commercial for a leading energy drink would have you believe, Rome wasn't built in a day. No lasting construction can begin without first focusing one's efforts on establishing a stable foundation upon which to build. That takes an appropriate amount of time, resources, and effort.
There are no shortcuts to trustworthy stability, be it a structure or a franchise. Thankfully the Steelers are the epitome of consistency and stability, they adhere to their engineering blueprints drawn up with immaculate precision, and they trust the process.
The past offseason tested the Steelers resolve and commitment to excellence like few have in recent memory. A reduced salary cap due to the pandemic; coupled with an abnormally high number of priority free agents, plus an aging and deteriorating Oline, left the Steelers with a plethora of tough, potentially franchise defining decisions. Throw in the huge contract discussions on Ben Roethlisberger and T.J. Watt, and the "Steelers Way" was undoubtedly tested like never before.
Plenty of naysayers lacking the heart for the commitment needed for true loyalty quickly went on the offensive, attacking seemingly every decision. The Rooney's business methods were old and outdated, evidenced by their stubborn loyalty to both Mike Tomlin and Roethlisberger, two Steelers legends whose time had come. Best to move on and find some new blood. The Steelers heard all the noise, but they simply paid it no mind.
Every decisions was questioned and dissected by the unbelievers, especially the decisions to promote from within, be it players or coaches. That's nothing new, for those blessed souls old enough to remember the hiring of Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. All the people questioning, "Who?"
So many individuals want what's shiny and new. In their minds, it has to be better than what they already have. That mindset is often left disappointed in the end. The Steelers knew what they already had in Matt Canada, Adrian Klemm, Roethlisberger, etc. They proceeded confidently based off that knowledge.
The Steelers realized all too well the unfamiliar dependency on rookies they would have this season, and decided it was better to surround that inevitable inexperience with proven stability and leadership. The Steelers definitely aren't lacking in talent, only the confidence and consistency that only comes with experience.
Last year the Steelers were winning games, but not showing steady progress along the way. This year the much younger Steelers squad stumbled out of the blocks to a 1-3 record, but have shown steady improvement at each step of the journey. Nobody knows the final destination, but I prefer this season's trajectory.
The Steelers rookies have now experienced the hostile working environment that comes with competing against two AFC playoff contenders on the road, and have walked away victorious on both occasions. That experience is invaluable, and they have grown by leaps and bounds in the process.
Trust the process. The Steelers future depends on it, and that future is bright.
Steelers Stock Trending Down: Creating interceptions
There may not be a more polarizing defensive statistic in football than interceptions. No stat is more potentially misleading or even irrelevant.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a grand total of 2 interceptions on the season, one each by Terrell Edmunds and James Pierre. That's actually hard to believe for a Steelers defense renowned for their ferocious pass rush, as pass rush and interceptions often go hand in hand.
Notorious ball hawk Minkah Fitzpatrick has come close on multiple occasions, even getting his hands on a few passes, but as of yet been unable to complete the transaction. Opposing QBs and offensive coordinators have made an obvious attempt to avoid him, thus limiting his opportunities to make a impact via the interception.
Many interceptions are the direct byproduct of tipped passes around the line of scrimmage, an area where Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt truly shine. Last I checked, Heyward was leading the league with 5 pass deflections. Sadly, none of those tipped passes came to rest in the clutches of a Steelers defender.
The Steelers inability to garner interceptions is a two fold issue; a lack of good fortune, coupled with a passive aggressive defense mindset on the backend. The Steelers secondary hasn't been ineffective, even if they haven't been particularly opportunistic.
Some cornerbacks are prone to gamble on defense, creating big plays on occasion, but surrendering chunk plays as well. The Steelers defense is not designed for that type of aggressiveness.
Based on the effectiveness that the Steelers defense has achieved thus far this season, I don't expect the Steelers coaches to deviate very far from their current schemes. The Steelers might see a slight uptick in their INT totals over the remainder of the season, but I would advise not getting your hopes up.