The adjustments and perserverance of the Steelers' defense led to one of the biggest turnarounds of the season in all the NFL. The Steelers' defense gave up all eight third down attempts by the Denver Broncos and their only stop came from a forced fumble from Will Allen on Denver's first drive.
"Blink and I'll cut your eye lids off," coach Mike Tomlin told his defense on the sidelines as he reminded them to stay focus and committed to the plan. He knew that the problem was not the scheme, but the execution of the players within the scheme. Once the execution would be there, the defense would make the plays to win the game.
That is exactly what happened in the second half.
We reviewed Ryan Shazier's inteception along with the game's other biggest plays here, but this article will take a look at his closing speed again. Shazier has to cover what appears to be a solid out route from Owen Daniels and closes too fast for Osweiller to fit the ball in for the easy completion that he thought was available. Shazier's explosiveness is the reason he was a highly touted first round draft pick a year ago and could be a huge pillar for future Steelers defenses.
Brock Osweiller certainly missed the open under route from his running back, but he thought that he could fit a tight pass to Thomas over the middle and the Steelers were ready. Notice how all across the field that Steelers defensive backs are running tight with their receivers, giving Osweiller few opportunities for an easy completions he was converting in the first half.
Again we see the advantages which tight coverage windows can give to a defense. By running with the receiver, Osweiller is forced to have to make an extremely accurate pass right into the teeth of the coverage. Though Will Allen drops what could have been a game-ending interception, he does everything else right on this play reading the quarterback's eyes and jumping the route.
The Pittsburgh Steelers came out in the second half on their game and ready for the Broncos. While it would have been nice to have done that all game, their play in the second half showed that when they do their jobs that they can be a tough defense for any offense to face. There are not too many other receiving corps that have as many talented threats as the Broncos, so being able to run with them and play lock down defense in the second half is a great sign that the defense's true potential is not just having the score run-up on them.