I don’t know if the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense was truly better in the second half of Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers. It sure helped they were on the field for only a blink of an eye in the third quarter as the Pittsburgh Steelers churned out a 21-play drive. Still, Pittsburgh allowed only nine second-half points in a 24-16 win.
For T.J. Watt, it’s a step in the right direction.
“It feels like the last couple years we’ve kind of come out flat from halftime,” Watt said via Steelers.com. “It was a big emphasis to come out guns blazing after the half. I don’t know if we did that to the fullest of potential, but feel good about how we did it.”
Pittsburgh’s defense may not have had as many third quarter problems as their offense has experienced but there’s always room for improvement. And over the last six quarters, dating back to the second half of the Atlanta Falcons’ game, the Steelers have struggled. In Week 14, the Baltimore Ravens kept a stronghold on the football to run the clock out.
While Pittsburgh’s offense played keep away, the defense kept Carolina out of the end zone. The Panthers did come away with points on all three of their second-half possession but they were a trio of field goals. And playing from well behind, three points aren’t enough to mount comebacks. Had it not been for Marcus Allen’s boneheaded penalty, Pittsburgh would’ve only allowed six points in a more comfortable win.
The Steelers’ offense certainly turned around their troubles in this game, going on an incredible 21-play drive that ate up nearly the entire third quarter. Once Carolina finally got the football, Pittsburgh’s pass rush kicked up. They ended the day with four sacks on Sam Darnold, the most the Steelers’ defense has notched since Week One. Watt and Cam Heyward each had 1.5 while Alex Highsmith had one, his 11th of the season.
As much as the Steelers would like to celebrate their win, they’ll have to turn the page quicker than usual. Their next game is in six days, Christmas Eve, and they’ll have to win out their final three games to even have hopes of a playoff bid. The 5-8 Las Vegas Raiders, currently leading the New England Patriots, are looking to do the same, making Week 16 effectively a win-or-go-home contest for both sides.