It has become a regular occurrence watching this defense do great things, almost to the point that we are press for time to appreciate how they have elevated this Pittsburgh Steelers team.
What we saw in this game against a capable Los Angeles Rams offense, was a defensive masterpiece. A unit that gave the team timely splashed plays and eventually won them the game at the end.
It would be easy to pinpoint safety Minkah Fitzpatrick as the catalyst for their success. On this evening, he had an incredible performance with three tackles, and interception, and his second defensive touchdown in consecutive weeks. When you look at the whole landscape, this defensive unit has consistent playmakers in each position. Whether it was TJ Watt getting into the backfield for sacks, or Joe Haden tipping passes leading to turnovers, or whether it was Cameron Heyward batting passes; this is a unit capable of stealing games which they have no business winning.
To put their season into perspective, after nine games, this unit has 25 total turnovers; last season, this unit accounted for 15. With three interceptions in this game, they now have a total of 14; last season, they could only muster eight. In practically every defensive category, this unit has drastically increased their numbers.
At this point, would it be safe to compare this 2019 defensive unit to some of the great units from the past, such as the 2008 Steelers defense? There are many similarities yet so many differences. Firstly, as great as Fitzpatrick has been this season, he does not compare to the overall greatness of Troy Polamalu that season. This noted, Fitzpatrick surpassed Polamalu in defensive touchdowns, and is closing in on his total interceptions for that season.
The outside linebacker duo of Bud Dupree and Watt has combined for 16 sacks so far this season. In contrast, the duo of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley combined for 27.5 sacks in the 2008. With the pace in which this unit produces turnovers, they could very soon make history.
Once upon a time, the Steelers a team with little hope. After their fourth consecutive victory, they stand at 5-4 and very much in control of their destiny. What this unit has become is a tribute to head coach Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff, as this was many frustrating seasons in the making. As fans, instead of focusing on the shortcomings of the offensive unit, we should collectively appreciate what the defense continues to do on a game-to-game basis.