Hello, Defense—The new star of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Nov. 13)

by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier

On the afternoon of Nov. 10, the Los Angeles Rams bullied their way into Heinz Field to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. The men from the Steel City were given a snowball’s chance in Hades at coming out on top against the feared and talented Rams. The Steelers were also coached by Mike Tomlin who was certainly going to be outcoached by the Rams’ wunderkind head coach Sean McVay.

The Steelers won the game by the score of 17-12 only because Pittsburgh reached into an old, new, old bag of tricks pulling out the two things that have stabilized them and aided their success over the past 40 plus years. Those two elements are coaching and defense.

At this moment the Steelers have a sporadic and unimpressive passing game anchored by a very sporadic and unimpressive second-year, second-string quarterback named Mason Rudolph whose only claim to a roster spot was based on him having a “great” camp.

The current 2019 Steelers have limped from a season-threatening 1-4 start to knocking on the Wild Card door with a present record of 5-4. Their 2019 turnaround has been in spite of but certainly not because of Mason Rudolph even though Rudolph was 22-38 for 242 yards and a TD against Los Angeles. Also take into consideration that for the second consecutive week, Mason Rudolph has allowed himself to be sacked in the end zone for a safety. In spite of the semi-incompetence of Rudolph and the Steelers offense featuring fumbles, dropped passes and snaps over the head of the quarterback, the defense has once again pulled “steel wool” over the eyes of opposing offenses. Pittsburgh’s offense has tried every imaginable way to gift wrap wins for opposing teams only to be thwarted by the Steelers’ “big nasty D.”

Some of the “squawking heads” are now even trying to take away the credit of the defensive turnaround of the Steelers from the recently acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick, the former Miami Dolphins safety, now an almost certain Steeler for life. Fitzpatrick also ran a fumble back for a touchdown against the Rams as well as snagging another pick of the 2019 season, his fourth as a Steeler. I heard from one of the “pundits” (and I use that term very superficially) that the Steelers defensive line was the reason that Fitzpatrick has been afforded multiple opportunities to get picks and recover fumbles. Have these nuts lost their ever-lovin’ mind? It is clearly because of the tight coverage on the back end that the D-line has more opportunities and more time to sack the QB.

The Steelers have been putting upfront pressure on opposing QBs for the last couple of seasons, but the defensive backfield has generally answered their effort by usually crumbling like dried out PlayDoh. With the exception of cornerback Joe Haden, it really didn’t matter who was patrolling the Steelers defensive backfield because opposing teams could almost always count on Artie “toast and jelly” Burns and his comrades to give up a big play to ruin the Steelers chance at victory. Over the course of the 2019 season except for the season-opening loss against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, Pittsburgh has been in the thick of almost every game with the defense almost always providing the Steelers a genuine chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

With the 2019 addition of cornerback Steven Nelson as well as Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Steelers defense doesn’t hope to win, they expect to win. However presently, the offense hasn’t quite acquired that swagger of confidence. Let’s hope that misplaced loyalty for an unproven quarterback doesn’t waste and sacrifice some truly great performances by an up-and-coming great Steelers, steel curtain-like defense.

 

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