The Pittsburgh Steelers defense recorded four turnovers Sunday in their 28-12 road win over the Cleveland Browns but their first one was perhaps the biggest of them all as it came right at the beginning of the second half and in the red zone with the team clinging to a 14-9 lead.
The turnover in question was an interception by veteran outside linebacker James Harrison on a 3rd and goal play from the Steelers 5-yard-line with 12:17 left in the third quarter. On the play, the Steelers played one deep safety and man across with safety Will Allen lined up across from Browns tight end Gary Barnidge in the slot. At the snap of the football, the Steelers blitzed both inside linebackers in addition to Allen and that left Harrison to drop into coverage on Barnidge, who has had a great season that included 79 receptions and 9 touchdowns.
Harrison walled-off Barnidge from the inside after the snap and broke with him to the outside just as he did. The veteran also got his head around quickly in order to find the forced pass from Browns quarterback Austin Davis.
While Harrison’s Sunday interception likely reminded everyone of the one he had in Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals that he returned 100 yards for a touchdown to close out the first half, the one against the Browns was a designed drop as opposed to him freelancing. After the game, Harrison was asked about the interception and the subsequent short return.
“Did I have 100 yards in me to run it back? Shit, I don’t know about that,” Harrison said, according to Jacob Klinger of pennlive.com. “I had enough in me to get to wherever they were going to allow me to go.”
Short return and all, the interception preserved a Steelers lead and it was the 7th of Harrison’s NFL career, and first since 11/17/13 when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals. Additionally, that red zone takeaway by the Steelers defense was 7th one of the season, the most by the team since 2005 (7).