With stars like T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick, the idea that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a ‘no name’ defense would never sell, but they certainly had some players who are under the radar making key plays for them on Sunday in a huge win against the Baltimore Ravens.
Two players who were playing essentially as injury replacements came down with two of the biggest plays of the day. First, it was Robert Spillane, starting for Devin Bush, who intercepted Lamar Jackson on the third play of the game and returned it for a score.
Later, early in the second half, linebacker Alex Highsmith, who was operating in a new sub-package prompted by Mike Hilton’s injury, recorded an interception inside the Ravens’ 25-yard line that set up another quick Steelers touchdown.
Meanwhile, while Fitzpatrick was formally credited with forcing Jackson to fumble late in the fourth quarter, it was a great two-gapping play by Isaiah Buggs—playing for the injured Tyson Alualu—who was primarily responsible for making the stop on the fourth-down play.
That’s three players that most NFL fans who don’t follow the Steelers have probably never heard of, all of whom would not have been in the positions they were in to make those plays if not for injuries, stepping up and making those plays, a testament to the ‘next man up’ philosophy.
After the game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked about these players who shouldn’t be playing stepping up for the defense. “I would say, ‘says who?’ Who says they’re not supposed to make big plays?”, he said.
“We expect big things from everybody. How awesome were the turnovers, the defense stepping up during the game and numerous times throughout the game? It’s just fun. It’s fun to see everyone contribute. That’s what makes this team special. Everyone does it. Everyone helps each other out”.
Spillane led the team with 11 tackles in the game, including a tackle for loss, and had two total passes defensed including his interception. Highsmith totaled two tackles on the day in addition to his interception. Buggs recorded a career-high five tackles, in addition to a hit on the quarterback, on a play on which he set up Stephon Tuitt for his second sack of the game.
Who says that they can’t step up and make these plays? All three of them have never had this opportunity before. All three of them stepped up and made a difference in what may well stand as the Steelers’ most important game of the entire regular season.
Who is it out there who tells you what you’re not supposed to be able to do? Listen to them, and then correct them.