5 keys to the Steelers’ playoff future

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Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Pittsburgh Steelers defense stops Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

2. Bend, but don’t break

The mantra for the Steelers defense has been “been but don’t break.”

Despite the statistics, that has truly been the case. Particularly against the Arizona Cardinals, the defense was able to force two red zone turnovers which kept Carson Palmer and the top-ranked Arizona Cardinals offense out of the end zone.

This is the bread and butter of the Steelers defense in 2015.

The secondary does not have the talent that it once had. Troy Polamalu is not head-hunting on the back end anymore. Safeties Mike Mitchell and Will Allen have come on nicely for the defense this year, but have given up the big play at times.

Defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have taken over games at times this season. Rookie outside linebacker Bud Dupree has made a nice transition to full-time outside linebacker detail and is tied for second among rookies in sacks, which is impressive due to the pass-rushing talent that entered the league this season.

In addition, Jarvis Jones has started to play football. He’s forced two turnovers and has been stout in the run game. He may not have the sack numbers that you would like to see, but he’s been playing his role on a defense which requires role players.

It will be a few seasons before this defense starts to remind you of the 2008 Steelers, but there are pieces in place conducive to a successful defensive unit. Cincinnati is the best offense that the Steelers will face the rest of the season, and the team faired well in the first meeting with the division leaders. If the defense can maintain their bend-but-don’t-break attitude, the Steelers will still be a dangerous team.

Next: 1. Keep Ben Roethlisberger upright