OK, OK… There were some boneheaded moments out there today but the one thing that matters is the scoreboard and the Pittsburgh Steelers had more points than the Arizona Cardinals. The Black and Gold moved to an incredible 8-5 on the season and keep hold of the sixth playoff spot for yet another week.
The 23-17 victory was not easy and if you’ve paid attention, easy wins won’t be coming this team’s way anyhow. The Steelers overcame a ridiculous fake punt decision leading by ten (whose idea this was is still in question as I write this) and some more questionable play-calling late in the game. But when you’re starting a third-string QB and you’re relying on backups at other skill position areas you take whatever win comes your way.
Devlin “Duck” Hodges was 16 for 19 for 152 yards and a slick touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson. Duck also added 34 yards rushing on five carries and once again proved why he needs to continue starting for the Steelers. Johnson had his biggest game of his young career returning a punt 85 yards for a score then adding the receiving TD in the third quarter. He ended up with six receptions for 60 yards and added another 16 yards on one carry. His performance today was truly remarkable.
And Then There’s the Defense
The Black and Gold recorded four sacks including one by Bud Dupree who also added two other tackles for loss. Mark Barron, Cam Heyward and Vince Williams also added sacks of rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. While T.J. Watt didn’t record a sack (he had a huge end zone interception as well), he was a constant thorn in Murray’s side and fittingly ended the game with a crushing hit that forced an interception. On the other end of that pick was Joe Haden who had two on the day.
Make no mistake this team will live and die with its defense as it has through much of season as the offense does just enough to not kill the team. Today was yet another example of that.
The offense actually conjured up 140 yards of rushing but no Steeler has more than 41 yards. Whether it was Benny Snell or Kerrith Whyte or Hodges, there was just enough running to get the job done and not it gets even more difficult. The Buffalo Bills come to the Steel City for the home finale in a primetime showdown vital to both teams’ postseason aspirations.
No matter how and no matter where, these Steelers keep finding ways to win and while it may be heart attack inducing for us it’s always been pretty damn exciting too.
Photo image courtesy San Diego Union Tribune