As much as everybody wants to talk about Devlin Hodges or James Washington right now, the true story in the Steel City remains the defensive side of the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After putting Baker Mayfield on his back several times and forcing him to cough up the ball twice, the defenders once again were instrumental in orchestrating a crucial win, holding the offseason champions to just 13 points.
Even though they don’t actually lead the league in sacks right now, they are on pace to set a new franchise record. They also have more takeaways than anybody else in the league, with at least two takeaways in 10 of their 12 games played. While their situational success has run hot and cold, they have been among the best in holding teams to three and outs, and their numbers overall are strong.
That was what Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller were discussing recently on SiriusXM Radio. “They’re back”, Kirwan said. “This is old-school Steelers now. Big-time defense, and the offense, don’t lose the game. It’s pretty fun to watch what’s going on there”.
A number of faces, both new and old, have really stepped up this year to make a difference, with T.J. Watt leading the way with a career year. He is on pace to break the team’s single season sack record, as well as that of the most fumbles forced. Cameron Heyward may be playing at his best as well, even if he might not hit double digit sacks.
Perhaps no one player has made as big of an impact as Minkah Fitzpatrick, however, who in 10 games has five interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble as well, including two defensive touchdowns. Then there’s Devin Bush, Steven Nelson, and older players like Bud Dupree and Joe Haden.
“The Steelers, probably defensively alone, have four or five guys going to the Pro Bowl”, Miller said. “Now when you look at Bud Dupree, ‘oh, he’s a bust’. Bud Dupree’s playing pretty good. He’s probably making himself a lot of money right now”.
Dupree has career highs almost across the board with 50 tackles, eight and a half sacks, four forced fumbles, and two recoveries, plus three passes defensed, with 10 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hits. With four games to go, he has a great shot at hitting double-digit sacks.
Both Watt and Heyward made the Pro Bowl last year, and they are likely to do so again this year. Fitzpatrick is also likely to make it. Dupree and Bush both potentially have a shot of making it as well, though possibly as alternates.
The last time the Steelers had three defenders make the Pro Bowl was in 2012, when James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, and Ryan Clark all made it. Since then, even sending two has been rare. This year figures to be different, fitting for how the season has gone.
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) December 2, 2019