The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
One would go back a ways to think of an example of two Steelers front-seven defenders dominating as much as those two did over Kansas City. They were each credited with 1.5 sacks, but the pressure they created, and the force behind stopping a Chiefs' running game that was averaging over 130 yards a game on the ground, spoke much more to the Steelers' defensive performance.
It was so much, in fact, it takes the concern out of a relatively flat offensive game. Add in outstanding contributions from Sean Spence (who should and I'd bet will start opposite Lawrence Timmons for the remainder of the season), Jason Worilds (quietly had two sacks and was held repeatedly) and Stephon Tuitt (a sack and a forced fumble), the Steelers' defensive front seven is molding into what we hoped it would be at some point this season.
For as overpowered the Steelers' offensive line was often at the point of attack, the pressure the Chiefs provided was nominal. The offensive line held its ground against the biggest challenge they've faced since the middle of the season. Houston's J.J. Watt is without a question the Defensive Player of the Year, and he very well may be the NFL MVP as well. He was largely neutralized against the Steelers. Justin Houston of the Chiefs and Elvis Dumervil of the Ravens are candidates for DPOY, they didn't have highlight reel games.
The Steelers, after years of concern and teeth-gnashing, have an excellent pass protection group and an athletic and formidable defensive front seven. How they got there is a story of front office success, outstanding coaching and character.
This is a winning group. They've already shown that by putting themselves in position to finish possibly as high as three games over last year's record, but a playoff berth and a home game for the AFC North title fits in line with the most optimistic expectations for this team this year.
Reaping the Ben-efits
Provide the man some pass protection and a defense, and he'll win you a lot of games.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sharp in this contest. He faced a tough defense and he knew yards would be hard to come by. He was largely limited not just by a narrow pocket and quick and active defensive linemen, he was limited simply by plays. It's rare this season the Steelers run fewer plays than their opponents, but the Chiefs, even with a turnover, ran 66 plays to Pittsburgh's 52. The Steelers' offense had no splash plays after the fourth snap of the game. Roethlisberger hit Martavis Bryant for 44 yards, and after that, they never notched a play over 20 yards. That hasn't happened this year.
Instead, a patient Roethlisberger leaned on the notion of "aiming small and missing small," hitting open receivers and getting rid of the football on schedule. There really wasn't much deep production to be had, and instead, Roethlisberger hit 18 of 25 for 220 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps most importantly, zero turnovers, one sack.
The Steelers' defense won this game, and it needed to. Roethlisberger wasn't throwing risky passes, he just trying to commander the offense to move and maintain. Big plays have been the staple of this offense all season, and they only had one of them.
But behind an excellent defensive performance, Ben played winning football. The Steelers have won three games in a row and four out of their last five, peaking right in time for the playoffs.
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