It was, overall, not too bad of a game for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense. They could have done better on third down, allowing a nearly 50-percent conversion rate. They allowed 364 yards of offense, but that came over 71 plays, at a little over five yards per play. They lost the time of possession battle. But they held the offense to only one touchdown on three trips at or inside the Steelers’ 20-yard line, and took the ball away twice.
Both of those takeaways came from Minkah Fitzpatrick, first coming after Cameron Sutton scraped the ball out of the grasp of rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. The ball bounced right into Fitzpatrick’s lap, but sometimes it works out that way. In the second half, he nabbed a floater for an interception in the end zone. To end the game, he batted the ball down hard at the goal line, rather than go for the interception, which is pretty much the same thing in that context.
He assessed the play of his unit after the game, and identified one particular area of weakness. “I think we have to do a better job on big possession downs on third and short, third and mediums”, he said. “They were winning those situations. Those are usually situations that we win. We weren’t winning them and were allowing them to have long drives, get down the field, and put them into field goal range”.
“They schemed it up very well, getting linebackers in coverage. They hit us with a double move”, he added. “But besides that, it’s really just possession downs, doing the little things right, and overall, just taking this win as a win. They’re professionals as well. And just learning from this game”.
The defense did hold the Cowboys to just six points in the second half, forcing two turnovers, one on downs, in addition to forcing a punt and holding out on the final drive at the end of the game when the clock expired.
The caveat to all this, of course, is the fact that they were playing a Cowboys team starting Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, their fourth different starter of the season after Dak Prescott had his year ended with an ankle injury, Andy Dalton suffered a concussion and contracted the coronavirus, and Ben DiNucci played so bad that they decided one of two quarterbacks on the practice squad would start instead of him.
Now, the question is, did Gilbert really play well, or did the defense play poorly enough to make him look overall rather competitive? Some of his best plays he did end up making with his legs, whether it was scrambling or avoiding sacks, so perhaps underestimating his athleticism was a factor here.
Overall, this feels like yet another win that nobody feels particularly good about. The Steelers suffered significant losses in battles in all three phases of the game. But it still is a win, and that alone feels good.