The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t always make it pretty, but they typically get the job done. And so far, they have gotten the job done eight times out of eight opportunities in 2020, producing their league-best 8-0 record.
While it has come as a shared responsibility between the offense and the defense, the two sides going back and forth as to who would have the need to play closer when the game is on the line, the defense has been stepping up more frequently than the offense in recent weeks.
In fact, over the course of the past three games, each game came down to the final play of the game, with the defense making a stand or forcing a field goal attempt after the offense was unable to close out the game with possession, something that they had been very successful doing earlier in the year.
Why is this unit so successful in coming up with the plays that need to be made? For the unit’s captain, Cameron Heyward, who made one of the most important defensive plays late in yesterday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys, the reason is simple: some moments are bigger than others.
“There are plays that are weighted more. I forget how we got into the situation, but we were in the red zone, and Minkah got the pick—that was huge”, he told reporters after the game, via video of his post-game interview supplied by the team’s media department.
“Then you look at the drives that we did at the end of the game, where it was the defense getting off the field, the offense going down, going all the way, and getting a touchdown. When we get those stops, and we get those touchdowns, we’re a hard team to beat”.
The defense on this day had to make two game-closing stops because the offense couldn’t finish the deal, but Heyward’s own fourth-down sack felt like such a huge, game-clinching moment at the time, and really, it should have been.
It’s all the more remarkable because he suffered a knee injury in the previous game and had to come off the field, yet he never even missed a day of practice during the week, and certainly didn’t play as though he was favoring it. In fact, this was likely one of his better games of the year so far.
The Minkah Fitzpatrick interception came after a long kick return that set the Cowboys up in field goal range before the defense took the field, but that wasn’t the only time the special teams put them in a bad position. They also held the Cowboys to a field goal following another long return to mitigate the damage.
The Cowboys ultimately scored five times in the game, but the defense held them to just one touchdown, despite reaching the 20-yard line or better three times. They need to do better than they did in this game, especially on possession downs, but when the plays needed to be made, Heyward and his crew did step up and made them.