Instant Reaction: Steelers 'Tough Stretch' Ends 2-0, and Their Playoff Hopes Are Now Real
Minkah Fitzpatrick was worth whatever imagined top 5 pick everyone believed the Dolphins got for him. The second-year safety scored in his second-straight game and it's more than clear that he's been the biggest factor in turnaround of this defense.
And what a turnaround it has been. This defense has forced 25 turnovers through nine games and has shut down some of the league's best offenses.
This week, it was LA. Todd Gurley finished with 73 yards. Jared Goff's 243 yards and 2 interception passing day seemed like it was too high for what we watched on the field. This offense was in complete disarray from start to finish, and it kept an equally disappointing performance by the Steelers offense above ground.
Over the last two week, Mason Rudolph has gotten noticeably more comfortable. He still starts nervous, but it only lasted a drive or two this week instead of a first half like it took against the Dolphins.
The problem this week was that no one wanted to help him by catching balls. Rudolph threw into deep, tight windows all afternoon, and time and time again, you watched Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Vance McDonald drop balls.
When it came time to create a drive the Steelers came through, though, Up by two with under 6 minutes remaining, Rudolph marched his offense downfield - starting with a 4th and 1 gamble - to put Pittsburgh up by five with a little over two minutes remaining.
What this game taught us was that this defense can win championships. The offense is far from playoff caliber, but Mason Rudolph is getting better and eventually his receivers will catch the ball. James Washington is probably going to become his favorite target, and JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to start making plays as his quarterback gets more comfortable.
The defense has all the weapons to shut down any offense in the NFL. Ignore the first three weeks - this defense now is one of the league's best. With Fitzpatrick leading the way, they're able to play trusted football. Every player can handle their assignment and it allows them to put 100% into their position.
Pittsburgh is now 6th in the AFC. That's right, the 0-3 Pittsburgh Steelers have fought their way back. How? Minkah Fitzpatrick and this defense.
Say what you will about potential, but if this offense continues to grow, the Steelers can make a splash. Indianapolis and LA were the toughest stretch of the second half of their season. Going 2-0 has put them in the right spot to force their way into the postseason.
It's a new season for the Steelers and it starts now. Keep this winning streak alive and people are going to start wondering just how far they can take this season.