If there is a game on the schedule that Pittsburgh “should” win, this Week 10 matchup against the Green Bay Packers would be one of them. The crowd noise alone should be enough for Pittsburgh to come away with a victory, right?
Not so fast.
Like every team Pittsburgh has played this season, the Packers are statistically a better team than Pittsburgh across the board, albeit not by much and certainly not in the takeaway or sack departments.
Although the Steelers' defense isn’t having the same type of season as the Baltimore Ravens or even the Cleveland Browns, they are an elite unit. The only problem with winning games with the turnover battle is that turnovers come and turnovers go. This Steelers team has gone through long dry spells of not getting the ball back even when they’ve played lights out, as one of the enigmas of the sport is luck is an ingredient in almost all wins, even if in a small way. For Pittsburgh, that’s an understatement.
Following the season-long mantra, let’s take a look at the keys to victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers to walk away with the “dub” this week.
Key #1: Protect the ball
Protecting the ball is the number one priority of every offense, but the Steelers have taken it to a new level. Their version of the sport is to simply not make mistakes on offense that could beat you, even if that means not gaining yards. Believe it or not, this is complementary football. Pittsburgh knows (or at least believes), as long as they do not turn the ball over – they are in the game, and maintaining that will be key to a win against the Packers.
This style of play can lead to some blowouts, in cases where opposing offenses were able to score and simply holding onto the ball just wasn’t enough. Against a large portion of the league, it is enough, and against the Packers, protecting the football will be key.
Key #2: Force turnovers
Forcing turnovers is how Pittsburgh wins football games. Although the team has faired well in the turnover department even minus defensive tackle Cam Heyward for a good portion of the season, the loss of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to a hamstring injury really stings. After all, two of the top playmakers on the team, if not the NFL, sitting on the sidelines is never a good thing. Yet still, Pittsburgh continues to find ways to come up with the game-changing turnovers, whether it be an interception, strip sack, or forced fumble in a key moment, this defense has been coached to go after the ball first.
The team would rather give up 500 yards yet limit points and in return trust the defense to bring home the victory with a game-changing play 00 or three. The question becomes how has Pittsburgh been able to do this so consistently, even if that consistency only leads to a .500 season?
The answer lies in the third key.
Key #3: Bring the heat – as always!
T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are the key to the Steelers’ dominance in the turnover department despite losing every other statistical battle on the field. There are other contributors and the pass rushing scheme is always tops in the NFL but for now, it’s these two guys that make the Pittsburgh defense what it is today. Without Watt last season, Pittsburgh couldn’t buy a win. With Watt, they lose a whole lot less.
The pressure Pittsburgh brings to the table is only matched by the Baltimore Ravens this season and maybe the Cleveland Browns. Although those teams seem to have fewer holes to plug from week to week (as this Ravens defense is at least comparable to the legendary 2000 team), all three teams are in contention for the division crown and Pittsburgh seems to have their numbers. Always close games – always crazy games – and always entertaining... as long as you enjoy sitting on the edge of your couch screaming at the television.
This week might not be a matchup against the Browns or Ravens, but it is a game Pittsburgh should win at home if they execute these three keys to victory. What are your keys for a Steelers victory in Week 10? Join our Behind The Steel Curtain community and let us know in the comments!