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Steelers Defense And Ladarius Green Lead Team To Victory

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The Pittsburgh Steelers get stellar play from their defense and big contributions from Ladarius Green in victory over New York Giants.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has hit their stride over the last three weeks, and this performance was their most impressive of the season. The Steelers knew they had to win to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens in the race for the AFC North title, and Ladarius Green‘s career day fueled the team to a victory over the New York Giants.

The matchup that fans were looking forward too was between two of the best receivers in the game, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, Jr. The matchup didn’t disappoint as both players made impactful plays for their team. Even though Beckham ended with 100 yards, it had to come on a massive 16 targets and 10 receptions. Antonio Brown was held to six receptions for 54 yards, but had an incredible touchdown that put him and Ben Roethlisberger in the Steelers record books. Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann held the Steelers record for touchdown connections with 49, until Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown set the record at 50 on Sunday.

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Ben Roethlisberger had another great game at Heinz Field. The Giants pass rush pressured Roethlisberger on 11 of his 38 drop backs, but he countered their attack by completing 5/9 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Although the Steelers offensive line didn’t collectively have one of their best games, Maurkice Pouncey was the highest graded center for Pro Football Focus with a 86.4 and allowed no pressure in the game. The offensive line did just enough to create holes for Le’Veon Bell, that led to his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game.

In the last week two weeks against the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers‘ defense was the best unit of the game. But this was a tougher test, as they faced off against Eli Manning who posted 3,000 yards for his 12th consecutive season. The only score the defense allowed for the first 58 minutes came on a 17-yard drive for a touchdown, that was set up by a Le’Veon Bell lost fumble. The defense was led again by 38-year old linebacker James Harrison. Harrison led all edge rushers on Pro Football Focus with an incredible 91.5 grade on his seven pressures for five hurries and one sack.

The Steelers defensive rookies continue to make impact plays. Rookie safety Sean Davis had the best game of his young career when he caught as many passes that were thrown into his coverage as the Giants did. Artie Burns only allowed 32 receiving yards on five completions, with the longest play coming from Sterling Shepard on a 10 yard reception. Mike Tomlin had nothing but good things to say about the play of his defense.

“I just think we’re finding our rhythm. I think we’re gaining continuity with the mix of guys who are playing. The young guys are growing up. And by the young guys I mean Hargrave, (Artie) Burns and (Sean) Davis. But just generally, I think it’s about the cohesion and the guys are gaining rhythm in that way, in terms of not only knowing what they’re doing, but knowing what’s going on around them. I think that allows them to play harder and faster. And that’s what we need. That produces the atmosphere where big things happen for us.”

The player that had the biggest impact on the game was tight end Ladarius Green. In just his fourth game in a Steelers uniform, he posted his greatest game of his career with 11 targets, 6 receptions, 110 yards and a touchdown. He was in on 35 snaps and ran 26 routes, which translated to a 42.3% target rate. Ben Roethlisberger has been Ladarius Green‘s biggest supporter thus far, and he wants him to get even better.

“Yeah, I thought he played great today with still a little work that we need together, and he knows that. He wants to be great, and you know, we left a little bit out there today, but I can’t say enough for the way he played and stepped up, and I hate that I missed him on that last one. We had an opportunity and I just put a little too much air on it.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to stay tied for first place in the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens, but are still on the outside looking in on the playoffs. With a road game coming up against the Buffalo Bills, the Steelers will have to find a way to get above .500 when they play outside of Pittsburgh. If the defense continues their high level of play, the Steelers will have a great chance at victory.

Statistics and quotes referenced via Pro Football Focus, Pittsburgh Steelers media guide, and New York Giants media guide.