PITTSBURGH — It’s something of an understatement to say that the Steelers 2019 season has not started the way they hoped.
The team is 1-4 after losing Sunday’s 26-23 overtime bout with the Baltimore Ravens and is already 2.5 games behind those Ravens for first place in the AFC North.
They’ve also lost two starting quarterbacks in-game to significant injury, with Ben Roethlisberger lost for the year to an elbow injury and Mason Rudolph requiring hospitalization after a concussion on Sunday.
Rudolph seems to be doing OK and undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges moved the ball well in his first career action, but at this point if the Steelers are going to rescue their 2019 season, the most likely way for that to happen is if it comes from the defense.
That unit has been rounding into shape as of late and perhaps had its best effort of the season against the Ravens. The Steelers held Baltimore to a season-low 277 yards and forced three interceptions.
So when Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made the nearly unheard-of decision to kick the ball away to start the overtime period on Sunday, he did it with the confidence that the defense would be able to get the Steelers’ wounded offense good field position.
That unit seems just fine with being put into that position, both on Sunday afternoon and for the rest of the season.
“We don’t shy away from that,” defensive captain Cameron Heyward said on Monday. “We get to make a stand and we can make a statement as soon as we get on the field. We went into the game thinking we wanted to defer to start the game and in OT, it’s the same way. I appreciate that and I know our defense does, because we want to set the tone.”
Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick echoed the sentiments of Heyward that the defense is ready for a greater spotlight.
“I’m happy he did it,” Fitzpatrick says. “That’s a compliment to us. He think we can go out there and get a stop. We did that.”
He also said that the team understand the situation it’s in as a whole.
“We’re 1-4,” he said. “We still have 11 more games to go out there and compete, play football and that’s it. We play pretty solid football. Some unfortunate things happened. Our quarterback going down. We have some things to correct on defense. We’re not far. 1-4 doesn’t really reflect where this team is at.”