Cam Heyward is only in his early-30s but he had the commentary of a 70-year old back in my day in his post-game press conference, fresh off a big win over the Cleveland Browns. One where the Browns’ run game wasn’t stopped but slowed and didn’t kill the Steelers. Heyward explained why the run defense did enough to secure victory.
“Stayed in our damn gaps,” Heyward told reporters after the game via Steelers.com. “Get off blocks. Allow our linebackers to flow. Our corners played physical. It was a collective effort.”
The Browns were held to under 100 yards rushing for only the second time all season, running for 96 yards on 23 carries. Only twice this year has Cleveland been held under 150 yards on the ground so while near-100 yards might not feel like a great performance, the Steelers’ did their job. Not just the front seven either. Minimizing a Browns’ rushing attack is an 11-man job and Heyward made sure to shout out as many players as he could for stepping up.
“Buggs, Wormley, TJ, Highsmith, Henry Mondeaux, Schobert, Devin Bush. Then our corners coming down. Cam Sutton did a great job today. And Joe Haden.”
Nick Chubb was held to just 3.8 yards per carry and Pittsburgh allowed just one run of more than 15+ yards on the day. As Dave Bryan has pointed out, the Browns’ run success rate was very low, a key number in illustrating how subdued Cleveland was on the ground. Pittsburgh was gap-sound a lot more often than they were in Week 6 against Seattle, leading to a third-quarter meltdown.
That’s a 60-minute, all-hands-on-deck job, especially in close games like this. Cleveland didn’t fail to run effectively because of game circumstance. Wire-to-wire, the game was close. Cleveland struggled because the Steelers stepped up and played impressive football.
The same could be said on either side of the football. Pittsburgh’s running attack played above expectations, the o-line winning the line of scrimmage with Najee Harris grinding out tough yards.
Pittsburgh battled all day, something Heyward commended his teammates for doing.
“I told my young guys along the defensive line. ‘Everybody likes to talk about what happened last year. But what better way to introduce yourself in this rivalry than right now.’ I just thought they answered the call. Was it perfect? No. But I just loved the way they continued to battle. Going into half at 3-3, that says a lot. To win a game 10-15, you don’t get a lot of scores like that.”
On and off the field, Heyward sounds like an old-school Steeler, right down to the “Get The Hell To Work” shirt he sported post-game. That’s because he is an old-school Steeler, with the physicals and mental tools to transcend any era. Sunday, Pittsburgh played old-school football. And got an old-school win.