Pittsburgh Steelers DC Teryl Austin spoke to the media Thursday following the team’s tight win on Christmas Eve against the Las Vegas Raiders and talked about the defense’s performance in that game as well as his thoughts on Pittsburgh’s upcoming matchup against the Baltimore Ravens on the road Sunday night.
Austin was told by a member of the media that several DBs have mentioned that DB Coach Grady Brown has a chart that keeps track of the teams atop the league in interceptions and was asked if that aspect of leading the league in picks is something that is mentioned a lot in-house.
“We’ve always been, since I’ve been here, good in terms of taking the ball away and getting it from the opponent,” Austin said to the media Thursday per official team transcript. “So, I don’t expect any different. I expect our guys to intercept the ball, I expect us to get turnovers because it helps our team. If he keeps a chart and keeps them motivated that way, good for him. And that’s okay. I think that’s what this league is about. You get a lot of guys in here that are competitive and, ‘Hey, what can push their buttons, get them to do things a little bit better, to maximize their talents and those things?’ So, if that interception chart is something that keeps those guys going, that’s great. I’m with it.”
After securing three INTs on Saturday against QB Derek Carr in the 13-10 win over the Raiders, the Steelers currently lead the league with 17 INTs on the season. They sit one pick above the New England Patriots who are notoriously known for having talented secondaries under HC Bill Belichick as well as the Philadelphia Eagles who are having a fantastic season as likely Super bowl favorites in the NFC. While the defense hasn’t played up to expectation this season, especially during the beginning of the year with T.J. Watt out of the lineup, the secondary has shown up in a big way taking the football away from the opponent, making up for the lack of pressure by the pass rush in 2022.
Pittsburgh has been quite opportunistic at talking the football away since Austin arrived in Pittsburgh back in 2019. Coincidentally, that was the same season when Pittsburgh acquired S Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins, adding a huge boost to the defense in terms of stabilizing the secondary and creating more turnovers. Fitzpatrick himself has accounted for 16 INTs, three forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries during that span, combining with the likes of T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, and other members of the defense who look to create splash plays on the defensive side of the ball.
When Pittsburgh’s defense is healthy, they can be a force for any team in the NFL. The Bengals witnessed that first-hand in the Week 1 opener, and the Steelers have gotten back on track defensive since Watt has returned after the bye. They will need to look to create more splash plays on Sunday night after losing in that category to Baltimore the first time around as they picked off Mitch Trubisky three times while Pittsburgh got gashed on the ground. If the run defense holds it own, the game script may play into Pittsburgh’s favor, especially if Tyler Huntley gets the nod to start in-place of Lamar Jackson.