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Heyward Praises Sutton, Spillane For Strong Play And Stellar Communication

Before the season started, the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers was supposed to be the side of the ball that kept them in games, with a talented secondary and ferocious pass rush. However, that sentiment has not been the case thus far, as Pittsburgh’s defense has experienced a multitude of injuries seemingly every week leaving them shorthanded, and last week against the New Orleans Saints was no different. Out of nowhere, star FS Minkah Fitzpatrick was ruled out due to appendicitis just days before kickoff, and LB Myles Jack, the team’s leading tackler, also didn’t see the field due to a knee injury.

Despite these crucial losses, the Steelers’ defense looked as stout as we’ve seen since Week 1. Often, an essential piece of the game that is forgotten about from a fan’s perspective is the necessity for communication on defense. Without two of the stars on defense who both typically play in the middle of the field, that element of the game was challenged last Sunday, but DT Cam Heyward talked earlier today about how the team overcame that struggle.

“I think it goes back to everybody stepping up,” said Heyward via the Steelers official website. “Rob Spillane, the D-line communicating with the outside linebackers, the secondary, Terrell Edmunds, [just] multiple guys communicating to make sure we were on the same page.”

When watching on television, it’s easy to forget how important the pre-snap work is to a defense, in order for everyone to know their particular role for the play, and not allowing for any mental lapses. Certainly, this challenge has been stressed by the absence of LB T.J. Watt, but it’s reassuring to hear a leader on the team like Heyward express confidence in the ability of other starters to pick up slack when needed. Specifically, Heyward mentioned CB Cam Sutton as a player who has thrived with extra responsibility.

“Cam Sutton, who’s in the nickel spot, sometimes has to be able to communicate with so many different roles,” explained Heyward. “He’s always asking for it. It’s a multitude of guys making sure we can communicate.”

The ability to shift responsibilities onto different players in times when injuries are present is so important for a defense that needs to be strong in order for their team to win games, which is the case for Pittsburgh. Evidently, this weekend may present that challenge as Fitzpatrick’s status is still uncertain due to his recent appendectomy, so players like Sutton may need to step up again and take charge of the defense.

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