After a massive upset win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense showed why they deserve so much credit for this unlikely victory.
In no circumstance would I have predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense would play the way they did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6. Over the past three years, we’ve been used to this ‘D’ holding teams to under 20 points. But given the circumstances, I didn’t think that would have even been a possibility this Week.
Early in the week, the Steelers injury report was riddled with names across the board — most of which were on the defensive side of the football. By Friday evening, a handful of defensive starters were officially ruled out of this contest, as they were not able to practice in full before Saturday’s walk-through. These included S Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB Cameron Sutton, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, CB Levi Wallace, and DL DeMarvin Leal. This is in addition to already missing the reigning Defensive Player, T.J. Watt, of the Year since Week 1 with a pectoral injury.
Missing four-fifths of your starting nickel secondary seemed like a recipe for disaster against Tom Brady and a talented group of wide receivers including Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. As a result, oddsmakers at Fanduel Sportsbook shifted the Steelers spread from 8.5-point underdogs to 10-point underdogs prior to kickoff. This was the biggest home underdogs the Steelers have been in the NFL era.
Depleted Steelers defense blew our minds vs Buccaneers
Shockingly, the starting defense against the Buccaneers — made up of roughly 40 percent backups — outperformed even the most optimistic expectations. Against the run, this unit allowed just 75 rushing yards on 2.9 yards per carry — their best performance of the year in this department.
The passing game was comparably impressive. They allowed just 243 yards and 6.1 yards per carry to Tom Brady, via ESPN. His lone touchdown pass came with just 4:38 remaining in the contest, and a spectacular pass deflection from Steelers LB Devin Bush made sure the Buccaneers didn’t tie the game on Brady’s two-point conversion attempt.
Though the Steelers didn’t record an interception and only sacked Tom Brady twice, they were more consistent than we have seen them all year. They were most impressive on third down where they allowed just 4 conversions on 14 attempts.
Pittsburgh’s defense came out swinging, and it was clear that they weren’t going to allow themselves to get embarrassed for the second straight week. The energy and impressive performances from players like Terrell Edmunds, Cameron Heyward, Alex Highsmith, and Larry Ogunjobi helped lead the charge.
Young defensive backs James Pierre, Josh Jackson, Arthur Maulet, and Tre Norwood also deserve a round of applause for stepping up to the plate in the absence of Steelers starters. We couldn’t have asked for more out of them than we witnessed in Week 6.
Whatever Mike Tomlin did during the week to get this team fired up, it certainly worked. With this newfound energy and motivation, the Pittsburgh Steelers might not be out of the race just yet. Now we will see if this team can get some of their starters back as they prepare for a pivotal game against the Dolphins next week.