The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense was more than impressive in today’s 23-20 win against the Cincinnati Bengals. The unit logged four interceptions, including a pick-six, a fumble recovery and seven sacks. Per Greg Harvey, the Steelers are the first team to do that in a single game since the Atlanta Falcons in 2002.
Pittsburgh got embarrassed the last time they played at Paycor Stadium, losing 41-10 in Week 12 last season. Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton said the defense had a chip on their shoulder coming into today’s contest.
“I think so. Just going into the year — high energy, flying around, the love for this game, the love for our brothers. We’ve just been waiting to show it. So week-in and week-out, we’ve been preparing well. We played for each other and kept our best foot forward. That’s a great start for us, but it’s not the end — it’s just the start,” Sutton said via official transcript provided by the team.
Pittsburgh certainly started the game off like they had a chip on their shoulder. On the first defensive play of the game, Cameron Heyward sacked Joe Burrow and on the second, Minkah Fitzpatrick picked Burrow off and took it to the house for a touchdown to give the Steelers an early lead. After getting run all over by the Bengals last year, the Steelers were out to prove something, and the way they played showed that.
Even when the Bengals had scoring opportunities, Pittsburgh’s defense tightened up inside the red zone and didn’t let the Bengals get easy touchdowns. The goal line stand that ended with Burrow throwing an incompletion to Chase on the first play out of the two-minute warning was huge, and if Pittsburgh didn’t have to burn an injury timeout for Najee Harris and have an incompletion, they could’ve bled the clock down long enough to prevent Cincinnati from having another try.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case, but even when the Bengals did score to end, the defense never said die and Minkah Fitzpatrick was able to block the extra point. They were able to stand tough and keep Pittsburgh in the game even when the offense wasn’t getting it done.
Obviously, the injury to T.J. Watt is going to impact the play of this defense, but if they keep playing with a chip on their shoulder, good things are going to happen. If they’re able to continue facing turnovers at the rate they did today, hopefully, the offense will be able to convert the increased opportunities into touchdowns, and games won’t be strictly reliant on how well the defense plays. Still, the defense is going to need to play at a high level throughout the season, and it seems as if they’re motivated to do so.