Defense keeping Steelers afloat
Perhaps it was the 1970’s throwback jerseys that they were wearing. Perhaps, it was having the vast majority of the living members of the 1979 Super Bowl champion Steelers in attendance. Perhaps, they realized that their offense was struggling and that they had to make the plays for the team to win.
Whatever it was, the Steelers defense flexed their muscles and exercised their will on the Los Angeles Rams offense in Sunday night’s exciting 17-12 win in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers defense actually outscored the Rams offense by a 7-3 score. Their swarming defense limited the Rams to just one first down in 14 tries on third down. They forced the Rams into eight punts, four turnovers and one turnover on downs in 15 possessions.
“We did a lot of doubling on (Cooper) Kupp,” said cornerback Joe Haden. “We knew that he was their number one third-down target. So, we made sure that he wasn’t going to be the one to get us.”
It’s a good thing the Steelers defense was playing with an effort and attitude reminiscent of the Steel Curtain, as they found themselves down 7-0 before they even set foot on the field.
On just the second play from scrimmage, center Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball over quarterback Mason Rudolph’s head. The ball was scooped up by the Rams Dexter Fowler, who raced 26 yards into the end zone just 14 seconds into the game.
This was the third consecutive week in which the Steelers had a turnover on their first possession of the game. The Dolphins and the Rams converted those miscues into touchdowns, while the Colts netted a field goal.
There have been recent seasons where the Steelers offense knew that they had to score on almost every possession, as the Steelers defense couldn’t be counted on to stop anyone. Thus far, this year, it’s been the defense that has been carrying the load. It really doesn’t matter who carries the load as long as the load gets carried.
The defense has forced at least three turnovers in each of the last five games. It’s no coincidence that these have all been Steelers wins.
“I feel like everybody on defense feels that they can make a play,” said Haden. “I think every one of the 11 people out there think they are going to get a strip-sack, a pick or punch the ball out. The pass rush works with the coverage and those dudes are really helping us out by getting to the quarterback.”
Even running back Trey Edmunds picked up an interception, snagging a pass on a fake punt try by Los Angeles. It was the first interception by an NFL running back since Kansas City’s Kenny Gamble did it in 1988.
“We were studying it all week,” Edmunds said. ‘I was just happy to make the play.”
With Ramon Foster still sidelined with a concussion, right tackle Matt Feiler shifted over to Foster’s spot at left guard. Chukwuma Okorafor saw his first action of the season starting in Feiler’s right tackle spot.
Linebacker Sutton has been re-signed to the practice squad for the second time in less than a week. Running back Darrin Hall was released from the practice squad to make room for Smith.
The Steelers have precious little time to rest as they play in Cleveland Thursday night. The Browns game concludes an intense four-game stretch in a span of 18 days. They only have two home games left in the regular season, as they will be on the road for five of the remaining seven games.
This past weekend was the Steelers annual Alumni Weekend. The 1979 Super Bowl team was honored at halftime. Hall of Famers Mel Blount, Franco Harris, John Stallworth and Lynn Swann were among the attendees as was former Youngstown State quarterback Cliff Stoudt.