The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is playing at such a profound level right now that it’s almost hard to put into perspective that they have had defenses this great in the past. Perhaps not in roughly the past decade, but the 2000s had some of the greatest defenses since the rules started bending heavily in favor of the offense.
That’s not to take anything away from this current group. They lead the league in both takeaways and sacks. Literally nobody has made as many plays as they have, and they have been getting help from a wide net of participants. There is one key above all to their success.
“We’re all hungry to make plays. It doesn’t matter who’s making them”, said outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who had an interception in the end zone after seeing a nine-game sack streak end. “We just want to impact the game as much as we can as a defense. I think you’ve seen everyone’s making the most of their opportunities when the opportunities come their way. We’re just hungry. We’re never satisfied”.
With 48 sacks and 33 takeaways, that is an awful lot of impact plays being made by this defense, and with that many plays happening, it’s virtually inevitable that you’re going to see a number of players getting involved in the mix. There are, of course, a few who stand out.
Watt would be one of them. Aside from his 12.5 sacks that he has already recorded through 13 games, he now has two interceptions to go along with five forced fumbles, and he has recovered three fumbles as well. Rookie Devin Bush has two interceptions, a force fumble, and four fumble recoveries. Minkah Fitzpatrick has five interceptions, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. Bud Dupree is up to nine and a half sacks with four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Then there’s Joe Haden, now with four interceptions and a forced fumble.
That’s not even mentioning Cameron Heyward and his eight sacks, plus a forced fumble. When you can let that go unsaid, you know a lot of people are making a lot of plays.
This is a group that just feels as though it can make a play on every single down, and everybody wants to be the one to make it. Yet they’re not pressing and going out of their way to try to make the splash and sacrificing the system. That balance has been key.
The defense’s hunger has gotten this team three games over .500 after starting the year three under. But they need to keep feeding to get to the big boy’s table: the playoffs.