Pittsburgh Steelers: Defensive replacements shut down critics

Nov 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood (96) sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 37-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As good as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ win against the Buffalo Bills was, their defeat of the Detroit Lions was even better.

And as good as Matthew Stafford‘s day of 362 yards and two touchdowns was, Ben Roethlisberger‘s 368 yards and four TDs got the win. Roethlisberger’s big day helped the Steelers uncharacteristically recover from a stormy first half on defense and special teams.

The Steelers defense, missing veteran leaders Brett Keisel and LaMarr Woodley, was harassed in the first half by Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The talented duo launched an assault on the Steelers secondary after Pittsburgh jumped to a shocking 14-0 first quarter lead. Johnson had 179 yards, including touchdowns of 19 and 79 yards, giving the Lions a 27-20 lead at the half.

But then the lights flicked on for defensive replacements Jason Worilds, Ziggy Hood and Jarvis Jones. The defensive front shut off the Lions offense in the second half, allowing just three completions for 35 yards.

Substituting at left outside linebacker, Worilds finally played to his lofty second-round draft pick expectations. He had seven tackles, four hurries on Stafford, and a sack. Rookie Jones had two passes deflected – with one nearly becoming his first interception.

Maybe most surprising was the showing by forgotten former No. 1 draft pick Ziggy Hood. Hood looked like a keeper stepping in for the injured Keisel. His five tackles, two for losses, and one hurry were topped only by his one-armed sack of Stafford to kill the Lions comeback.

Worilds, Hood and Jones shut up their critics by shutting down the NFL’s No. 4 offense in three out of four quarters. They played fast and hit hard, much like their new front-line leader.

Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward seemed to cover the entire field, recording five solo tackles and one assist. He also dropped into coverage and had two passes defensed. His relentless pursuit and energy is rejuvenating the Steelers defense. Heyward and Steve McClendon made the play of the game by sniffing out the fake field goal and forcing a fumble which powered the Steelers’ 17-point comeback.

Even the Steelers’ third punter of the 2013 season, Mat McBriar, overcame his wobbly first half. He and the punt coverage unit twice set up Stafford and Company on their own 12-yard line. His first punt of the third quarter traveled an astounding 70 yards…and likely saved his job.

The best part about the win was it pushed the Steelers back to playoff relevance. And in a division that no one seems interested in locking up, catching lightning in a bottle may get them back in the hunt.

Special Note: Recently re-hired safety Will Allen had an interception and forced a Reggie Bush fumble. Perhaps Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert can quiet the questions surrounding their personnel evaluations – at least for this week.

Topics: Cameron Heyward, Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ziggy Hood

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