The Steelers defense is currently ranked number one overall in the NFL, as well as number one against the pass, but despite coming a long way since week one of the season you won’t hear players bragging about the ranking at this point.
“I don’t put too much into that at this time,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “There is a lot of football left to be played, a lot of good football teams that we still need to play. If we are number one in the end I might pat us on the back a little bit, but right now we have to continue doing what we are doing and continue winning games.”
In the past three games, all wins, the defense has only allowed opponents in the red zone seven times, yielding only four touchdowns.
“We want to finish off number one,” said cornerback Ike Taylor. “We want to take it and run with it. That is our goal as a defense. We want to keep that going. Take it as far as possible and hopefully come out with something at the end of the year.”
The good news is the defense is one that is definitely on the rise. After week one against Denver they were ranked 15th in total defense, a number they weren’t happy with, and struggled in the early part of the season. They knew they had to pick things up.
“Our backs were against the wall,” said linebacker Larry Foote. “We were letting the team down in our play early on. We weren’t satisfied. We weren’t playing our best ball, especially in the fourth quarter.
“Just that alone everything intensified, our concentration, effort, on the practice field, game day. We had one choice. We could go in the tank or get up out of it. We made the choice to get up out of the hole.”
They definitely got out of the hole. The defense ranks first in total yards allowed per game at 262.6 yards, and yards passing at 174 yards per game.
“I think we are playing with more energy,” said Taylor. “I think the defense is playing with more enthusiasm. We are not getting as many penalties as we were earlier in the season. In the fourth quarter we are closing out games more than we were earlier in the year.”
Keisel agreed, saying that the energy level definitely has increased as of late and it’s paying big dividends for them.
“We all take pride in how we play,” said Keisel. “When we go out to practice we feel like we bring energy the whole week and when we go out to play games it’s going to be filled with energy. We know when we go out and play with energy, play for each other, and fly to the ball we are very tough. It’s all effort, determination and a will to win.
“It’s fun going out there right now competing with these guys, We have been a great defense here for a long time and we expect to continue that tradition.”