When the Pittsburgh Steelers have a game on a Friday night, Monday usually makes the previous game feel weeks ago. However, when looking back at the decisive 27-14 win for the Steelers, it is clear who the star of the show was, the offense.
How could it not be the star? With Ben Roethlisberger leading two scoring drives in the only two drives he played, one being a classic 'Big Ben' extended play to Jesse James, and another beautiful touch pass to Antonio Brown for a 57-yard touchdown, the offense was in mid-season form well before the start of the 2016 season. However, for as great as the offense was, the defense certainly did their part in putting their stamp on the third preseason game, also known as the "final dress rehearsal".
Think of it as a huge music festival. The Steelers offense was on the main stage, and had tons of fans clamoring about their performance, but on the side stage was a band very deserving of praise, as they too put on one heck of a show.
Looking at just the first half statistics, since most starters were relieved of their duties in the second half, the Saints offense, directed by Drew Brees, did very little in terms of production.
- Time of Possession: 14:02
- Third Down Efficiency: 3 of 7 (43%)
- Yards Passing: 129
- Yards Rushing: 50
- Total yards: 179
For some, those numbers wouldn't require a standing ovation, but fans might need to adjust their expectations of the Steelers defense in 2016.
This isn't the 2008 defense which will hold the opposition to 179 yards in 4 quarters of play. They are going to surrender yards, and sometimes points, but will live and die by turnovers and making the key stop when it matters most.
This game would be the perfect example. The Steelers opened the game with the football, and drove down the field for a touchdown. 7-0 Pittsburgh. The defense comes onto the field and forces a punt. Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown, and it's 14-0 Pittsburgh. Not even midway through the first quarter, and the defense is already playing with a two-score lead.
While most fans were hoping for a suffocating defense capable of shutting out an opponent, that simply isn't the 2016 Steelers defense. What they do have with this defense is a unit which plays fast, pressures opposing quarterbacks and is opportunistic in regards to turnovers. Just like in the game Friday night, after the starting defense surrendered their lone touchdown, the offense, led by Landry Jones, drove the length of the field and put another touchdown on the board.
Before you knew it, it was 21-7.
If the Steelers can get some stops, take the football away and continue their "bend, but don't break" mantra in 2016, there is no doubt the team's offense will be able to take advantage of the increased possessions they will receive. Who wouldn't want a Top 5 defense on their team? But the Steelers won't need a Top 5 unit to win this year, not with the headline act on the main stage melting faces at every turn.