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The Steelers primal approach to defense isn’t just working, it's fun to watch

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The development of Pittsburgh’s young and improving defense is a pleasure to watch these days.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Early in the Steelers’ Week 4 matchup against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium last Sunday, quarterback Joe Flacco was flushed out of the pocket, being chased by Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt.

When they caught up with Flacco and dropped him for a sack, the CBS announcer said in a rather menacing fashion, "Flacco is devoured!"

Seriously, had John Facenda said that with some classic NFL Films music playing in the background, I would have had goosebumps.

It was such a primal feeling, to see the pass-rush stalk an opposing quarterback and mercilessly take him to the turf. It's a feeling that has become quite common through the first quarter of the 2017 season, as Pittsburgh is second to only to the Jaguars with 15 sacks.

I was in attendance at Heinz Field watching the Steelers take on the Vikings in Week 2, and at one point in the game, outside linebacker Bud Dupree broke free of his blocker and made a beeline for quarterback Case Keenum. When I saw what was about to happen—an uninhibited hit on the opposing passer—I jumped out of my seat in Section 228 and screamed "Heck yeah!"

Again, it was so primal, so much fun.

And that's the key difference between this Steelers defense and the one from about five or six years ago.

Sure, that defense still had enough old, savvy veterans who knew where to be and when to be there, which enabled it to finish No. 1 with fewest yards allowed both in 2011 and 2012.

Yet, despite the protests from some experts and fans that the old defense was still one of the very best in the game, it was quite obvious to other experts and fans that there was just something missing.

It's one thing to know where you're supposed to be and when you're supposed to be there, but what if that's all you’ve got left: knowledge and experience?

What happens when that primal athleticism is lacking?

I think we saw that, as takeaways and sacks grew frustratingly sparse.

Ultimately, age truly caught up to those old, savvy veterans. Knowledge and experience were no longer enough.

It wasn't long before the unit began finishing much lower than No. 1 in many defensive categories.

Here we are in 2017, and I don't know where Pittsburgh will finish in total defense when all is said and done. But I'm pretty positive it's going to be a pleasure to watch this unit do its thing.

Yet even on a good day, seeing this defense on the field gives you an uneasy feeling because you know the opposing offense can take it to the house at any moment. But when that defense is young, fast, powerful and relentless, you don't mind the uneasiness so much.

And the Steelers aren't just getting after quarterbacks and making their lives miserable. They're also getting their hands on passes, sticking to receivers like glue, coming up with timely takeaways and generally making you realize how much of a young man's sport football really is.

Because if simply knowing where and when you're supposed to be somewhere was all it took to be a menacing defender, anyone could do it.

Maybe this is just a bunch of hyperbole spewed by a man still giddy days after his favorite football team dismantled the Ravens on the road. But when I watch Ryan Shazier, Artie Burns, Stephon Tuitt, Heyward, Dupree and even the rookie Watt do their thing, I see potential first-team All-Pros in action. I also believe I'm witnessing some future Defensive Player of the Year candidates.

I realize that tackling can be an issue for this unit and, yes, those 220 rushing yards the Bears put on Keith Butler's bunch cannot be discounted.

But this defense is looking more and more like a unit opposing offenses aren't going to want to deal with week-in and week-out.

This defense is going to get after the quarterback on a consistent basis; it's also going to take the ball away at a Super Bowl-acceptable rate.

Unlike 2011 and 2012, I don't have to google Pro Football Reference to justify the Steelers’ defense.

That primal feeling I get when I see them stalking Joe Flacco is all the proof I need.

This Steelers defense is fun to watch, and it's just a matter of time before it's truly considered special.