The Pittsburgh Steelers recorded three interception yesterday, and all three of them carried some substantial significant to them. All three of them made history in some form or fashion, whether it pertained to an individual’s career, a franchise, or the history of the NFL as a whole.
The first interception came from defensive end Stephon Tuitt, the second-year former second-round draft pick, and, as you might expect, the pick marked the first of his career. It was his first takeaway of the year, and the second of his career after forcing a fumble in his rookie season.
Tuitt’s interception was the first by a defensive lineman for the Steelers this season, and the first since Brett Keisel intercepted a pass in Week Seven in 2014. The previous interception by a lineman before that was Keisel again in 2010 against Tampa Bay, which he returned for a 79-yard touchdown. You would have to go back to 2005 to find an Aaron Smith interception, a decade ago.
But Tuitt was not the only Steelers to snap his first interception of his career, as fourth-year former undrafted safety Robert Golden also got his hands on a pass for the first time, seeing by far his most extensive playing time this year.
Golden started three games and played all but eight snaps in a fourth, but had spent most of the season riding the bench. In a couple of games, the Steelers mixed in three safety looks, which may have been the case at times yesterday, but he also replaced Will Allen briefly.
On his interception, he had just come on to the field to replace Mike Mitchell after he made a tackle on tight end Tyler Kroft down the field for a 20-yard gain. That catch was negated by a holding call, and the next pass was overthrown and picked off by Golden.
Outside of career firsts, however, the most significant turnover, in terms of impact as well as historical importance, was undoubtedly the first interception of the season for William Gay, the 30-year-old ninth-year cornerback.
On the second play of the second half, Gay was able to jump a route on a bubble screen pass on a play that he had seen before. There was nobody to stop him as he returned it 23 yards for the touchdown.
Why was this particular score important? It was the fifth interception returned for a touchdown for his career, which tied him with Hall of Famer Rod Woodson for the most in team history. Of course, Woodson returned seven more interceptions for touchdowns in his career after he left the Steelers. He also had 61 more interceptions in his career than Gay currently has.
But what Gay did is something that even Woodson had never done—something that nobody had ever done in the history of the NFL. That pick six was the fifth consecutive interception that he returned for a touchdown, the longest such streak ever recorded, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau via Dom Rinelli.
In more practical terms, those interceptions were instrumental in the Steelers securing a much-needed victory, as they scored 17 points off of those three turnovers in a 33-20 game. It was also the first game since 2011 in which they recorded three or more interceptions. History all around.