It’s no secret that the defense’s ability to turn the ball over has been a vital part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ success in a season in which they had not had the services of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger since the first half of the second game of the year.
The Steelers remain second in the NFL with 28 takeaways, just one behind the New England Patriots for the most in the league, and they have recorded at least two takeaways in nine of their 11 games on the season. They did not record any in the other two games, both of which they lost.
The most recent goose egg came two weeks ago in their 21-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns. But they were back on the right path thanks to playmakers in the fourth quarter over the Cincinnati Bengals to help preserve a fragile lead.
First, in the middle of the fourth, after allowing a big reception into the red zone to wide receiver Tyler Boyd, linebacker Devin Bush was able to punch the ball out. It conveniently stayed inbounds to allow Minkah Fitzpatrick to scoop it up and end the threat.
Later, which just a couple minutes remaining in the game, Bud Dupree notched a sack, dislodging the ball from the grasp of quarterback Ryan Finley. He proceeded to make a great effort to recover the fumble himself. T.J. Watt also had a strip sack earlier in the game, though the defense was unable to recover.
“I thought we did what was necessary down the stretch in terms of getting the ball”, Mike Tomlin noted yesterday in his pre-game press conference. “We hadn’t gotten the ball a lot throughout the course of that day, but we did what we needed to do, we made the significant plays at the significant moments. Bud Dupree, obviously, was a big-time play for us”.
Those two plays really helped to close the game, a game that they very much needed following a loss, and considering the fragility of the current state of the quarterback position. And they will likely need more on Sunday to get over the Browns this time.
While reporters wanted to highlight Bush and Fitzpatrick, Tomlin chose to spread the credit around for the takeaways. “I don’t know, Bud and T.J. are getting their share”, he said. I think it’s a collective effort. I think you can choose to highlight individuals if you so choose within an effort to write a story, but I think it’s really been collective. I think they’ve collectively decided, and I’m thankful for that.
Bush, after all, has recovered four fumbles, produced by others. Fitzpatrick has produced two fumbles produced by others. Several if Fitzpatrick’s interceptions have come off of deflections, two by Joe Haden. It is indeed a group effort, an effort that they need to continue to push forward into the postseason.