Second Quarter Meltdown Inspired Defense on Sunday


Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

"Personally, I was ticked, … I was ticked at our defense because we want to play better than that. I thought we came out with a lot of pride in the second half.-Cameron Heyward (Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)"

After the way Pittsburgh’s defense surrendered 31 points during the final quarter and a half against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, I was not necessarily surprised that they melted down for 27 against the Detroit Lions in the second quarter of their previous game.

Calvin Johnson is arguably the best wide receiver of this generation, Matt Stafford was looking his way on a constant basis, and Pittsburgh’s defense looked as hapless as they did when they gave up a total of 55 points and 610 yards to Tom Brady’s offense two weeks before. Through the first half of play, Stafford racked up 327 passing yards while Johnson hauled in six of them for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

The defense allowed their 14-0 first quarter lead to evaporate, and it looked like the 3-6 Steelers were on the verge of seeing their 2013 regular season go by the wayside when they entered the locker room at half time down 27-20.

As Heyward mentioned though, it definitely looked like “pride” took over for the defense as they started collapsing the pocket and forcing turnovers. Moreover, the unit definitely limited the types of mental mistakes they made earlier in the game which led to big plays by Detroit’s offense like Johnson’s 79-yard touchdown reception.

In the second half, Pittsburgh’s defense limited Stafford to only three completions out of 16 pass attempts, sacked him twice, and forced two important turnovers. The first of which occurred when they thwarted a fake field goal attempt and Ryan Clark recovered a fumble forced by Heyward and Steve McLendon. The second was even more meaningful since Will Allen’s interception kept Pittsburgh’s then-30-27 lead intact and set the stage for Ben Roethlisberger’s 20-yard touchdown strike to Jerricho Cotchery.

After the lolleygagging effort in New England, the Steelers’ defenders “nutted up” with their season on the line against the league’s third ranked passing offense. As horrendous as their performance in the second quarter was, the inspired play they illustrated in the second half as they shut the Lions out was nothing short of fantastic.

At 4-6 and still with slim postseason hopes alive, Pittsburgh will need their defense to display the same kind of tenacity and inspired play they illustrated last weekend. Any loss over their next six games could knock them out of postseason contention, so stacking performances like the one they had as a unit against Detroit in the second half will be extremely crucial for the Steelers.

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