The Pittsburgh Steelers defense put together their best performance of the season on Monday night, absolutely suffocating Andy Dalton. The major talking point from Monday’s game is the eight sacks and 12 quarterback hits that the Steelers’ front seven recorded but let’s not take any attention away from the secondary, as the Steelers’ secondary made the entire field a no fly zone for Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense.
Dalton was held to just 171 yards while also throwing one interception but that still does not do proper justice to just how good the Steelers’ secondary played. The Bengals’ quarterback should be feeling lucky to have only thrown one interception, as he could have easily thrown four to five. That is not an over exaggeration either. The Steelers recorded six pass defenses and almost all of them should have been intercepted.
- Mike Hilton’s First PBU
Mike Hilton had the first pass break up of the night and it was one that would set the tone for the rest of the game. Faking a blitz from the slot, Hilton jumps back in coverage and is right on the hip of Bengals’ receiver Tyler Boyd before knocking the ball out of the air. Credit to Hilton for the athleticism to get right back into the play and also credit Keith Butler for the great adjustment. The Steelers had been getting burned on their slot blitzes in weeks prior and Hilton executed the fake perfectly.
- Joe Haden’s First PBU
This one should be titled Joe Haden’s first interception but the veteran cornerback drops the football at the last possible second. Regardless, this play was executed to perfection up until the final moment where the football popped out of Haden’s lap. The Steelers drop into a Cover 4 and send only four after the quarterback. It is crucial for those four to get home and Stephon Tuitt does more than get home, he nearly beheads Dalton, launching at him but he is just a half second too late. The pressure still does enough to force an early and errand throw – a throw that is intercepted 99/100 times.
- Steven Nelson Great Coverage
Steven Nelson has not recorded an interception yet but that does not mean that he has been a slouch. In fact, Nelson has arguably been the Steelers’ best player in the secondary as he has locked up the left side of the field opposite Haden. While he is not technically credited with a pass break up on the play above, he makes a great play on Bengals’ receiver John Ross III.
Ross has tremendous athleticism and speed but that is no problem for Nelson. The Steelers’ cornerback sticks to him like glue on the slant route and is able to cause a drop, though its debateable if Nelson got a hand in there, his quick break on the ball was very impressive.
- Mark Barron’s First Interception
The moment everyone has been waiting for.
Mark Barron has not had an easy month of September but he sure did have a great game on the last day of the month. From the beginning of Monday’s game, it was obvious that the Bengals had a plan to target Barron in coverage, especially in the red zone. They go after Barron here on fourth down but the linebacker is in perfect position to undercut the route and come away with his first interception since 2017.
- Mike Hilton’s Second PBU
Hilton really played on another level on Monday night. Not only did he make a few stops in the backfield against the run but his play in coverage was beyond stellar as well. Hilton records his second pass breakup of the night on the play above but Dalton is lucky that the slot corner did not pull this down for an interception. Watching Dalton’s eyes, Hilton puts himself in a perfect position to jump the route and make an interception but the ball bounces off his hands. Interception or not, Hilton put together his best showing of the season Monday and hopefully it is a performance he can build on.
- Cameron Sutton’s First PBU
Cameron Sutton was not going to miss out on Dalton’s giveaway party as he almost came down with an interception of his own as well. Sutton plays this out route perfectly; he waits for the receiver to make his break and then jumps the route. Like Hilton and Haden, Sutton is unable to bring down the football but the technique displayed by the Steelers’ cornerback is the selling point here. Sutton has really impressed in limited snaps this year.
Dalton was pretty much begging the Steelers’ defense to intercept his passes and he is lucky to only come out of Monday’s ballgame with one interception. While the Steelers only managed to grab one interception, their ability to constantly be around the football is a great sign. The secondary was one of the many weaknesses of this team last year as it was a very top-heavy unit with Haden being the only consistent piece, but now the consistency from top to bottom of the cornerback group is a well needed breath of fresh air.