A punishing defense. A strong running game. A deep bench. Some of the best Steelers teams of this generation have had all of those traits.
Though it’s far, far too early to start comparing this Pittsburgh club to those outfits, it’s not too early to say that the Steelers are operating off of an old blueprint of late.
The Steelers’ defense, for which the onset of age has been a concern for multiple years, is back in top form, allowing just 207.3 yards and a mere four yards per play during Pittsburgh’s three-game winning streak. Dick LeBeau’s defense didn’t look washed-up when holding the powerful Giants’ offense to just 182 yards on Sunday — it looked like one of the NFL’s elite stop units.
The Steelers’ ground game also has picked up its play in impressive fashion, gaining 155.0 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry in the past three weeks. With Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) ailing, reserve RBs Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer have taken turns as the featured back, and the Steelers have had a 100-yard rusher in each of the past three games. Redman (26-147-1) wasn’t the only backup to come up big in the Steelers’ Week Nine win at the Giants. WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery each became bigger parts of the plan because of injuries to WR Antonio Brown as well as RS Chris Rainey. Cotchery caught all four passes thrown his way, and Sanders hauled in a second-quarter TD, broke a 63-yard fourth-quarter punt return and made a clutch third-down catch to move the chains late in the game.