As far as the first 11 weeks of the season is concerned, the Pittsburgh Steelers best week was week 11. Entering the season, many thought that Pittsburgh’s offense had the potential to score 30 points per game. As seen so far, that is far from the case, with Pittsburgh failing to reach 30 points until week 11. In week 11 however, the Steelers scored not 30 but 40 points in a 40-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The Thursday night football win was powered by outstanding defensive play, and opportunities presented to the offense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been the story of the season thus far. Entering the season, the narrative was that the defense would need to improve. The Steelers defensive unit has not only achieved this, but surpassed all expectations. The team is ranked 12th in total defense in the NFL this season. Even more impressive is their 10th overall rated pass defense. Pittsburgh’s run defense was expected to excel this season, but the big question was the pass defense. The secondary has improved greatly, and even without Joe Haden, should be able to continue their success.

Defense Dominates Mariota

Thursday night, not much changed from Pittsburgh’s first half defensive success. The defense was a nightmare for quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was sacked five times and threw four interceptions. Sean Davis, Mike Hilton, Robert Golden, and Coty Sensabaugh all intercepted a Mariota pass Thursday night for Pittsburgh.

Sensabaugh, who started in place of injured Joe Haden, proved the defense won’t suffer without Haden. The secondary has been building momentum and confidence all year, and nothing changed in week 11. The Steelers defensive unit needs to continue to improve, but this was another of many strong showings in 2017.

Offense Capitalizes and Commands

While the defense played outstanding, the offense will get the credit for Thursday night. In actuality, the offense played well, but was not great by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that they only outgained Tennessee by 33 total yards shows the defensive help in generating points. The game plan remained pass heavy, with Le’Veon Bell only carrying the ball 12 times. This is risky, but luckily the Steelers were able to manage, and Ben Roethlisberger did not turn the ball over. The Steelers offense will need more mistake free and balanced play to continue to succeed.

Passing Offense Not Plausible for Future

The problem with the offensive game plan is that it is not sustainable. Roethlisberger was hit five times Thursday night and pressured many more. Roethlisberger got up slow from a few of these hits. This is what happens when you throw the ball 45 times. The last thing Pittsburgh needs is a Roethlisberger injury. His presence in the game as a game managing quarterback in a running system is all Pittsburgh needs. Yes, they had success airing it out Thursday night, but this will not be able to last for the remainder of 2017.

Looking Ahead

With the victory, the Steelers move to 8-2 this season, still tied for the top spot in the AFC. They also still hold a commanding three game lead on the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. The win over the Titans was their biggest so far in 2017. The win was the fifth in a row for Pittsburgh, who has not lost since week five against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Next week, the Steelers are at home in prime time again, this time against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. The heightened play should continue against Green Bay as they are without Aaron Rodgers.

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