The Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to flip a switch against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in Week 13 at Heinz Field. After back-to-back lousy defensive performances, the defense responded with one of their most dominating days in some time. What the Steelers did on Sunday also signifies they can still be one of the best units in the sport. Despite all the injuries and missing players, the depth pieces finally stepped up and the Steelers had a great all-around game. Not just from their stars, but from the guys that make up the bottom of the roster as well.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers are to continue this level of defense, it starts with their star players, but you already know what you’re going to get from T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cam Heyward. What will keep this unit playing at an elite level is big time contributions from the surrounding players, and the depths players behind the stars. Perfect examples were Ahkello Witherspoon and Montravius Adams, both stepped up in a massive way for the Steelers against Baltimore. It is contributions like those that will push the needle and help the Steelers defense bury opponents.
Getting healthy will also make these Pittsburgh Steelers even better defensively. The team has now gone multiple weeks without Joe Haden, and Stephon Tuitt has yet to even see a practice this year. While it’s more likely the Steelers see Haden in the coming weeks, if they could get Tuitt back it would place another All-Pro caliber player back on this defense and drive this team back in a dominating direction. If the Steelers can remain healthy and get these bodies back on the field there is no doubt they can be even better than what they’ve shown throughout this entire season. The Steelers defense is far from playing to its potential, and if they are able to get to that level of play, this team may be able to go on a playoff run.
The other big factor that needs to be considered is the level of play the Steelers are getting from T.J. Watt. He is on the greatest pace for sacking a quarterback in NFL history. He’s disrupting plays at an insane level, and single-handedly wrecking offenses. The media and players alike are starting to come forward calling for the youngest Watt brother to not only win the NFL defensive player of the year award, but to receive votes for the Most Valuable Player of this league. Having an output like this from one player makes all the difference in the world. In games where Watt misses at least a quarter of playing time, the Steelers are 0-3-1, and in games where Watt is returning from injury they are 0-2. Meaning a healthy T.J. Watt has helped the Steelers to a record of 6-0. He truly is that level of play maker.
But what do you think? Will the Pittsburgh Steelers defense continue to play at the high rate we saw against the Baltimore Ravens? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Steelers’ defense has been driven by the powerful motor of T.J. Watt this season, and I spoke about him being a potential NFL MVP candidate, not just Defensive Player of the Year, on the latest “Live Mike” podcast. Check it out below: