Figuring it out eventually

By the end of the season in 2016, the Steelers' defense had figured out how to consistently play takeaway.

The Steelers came up with at least one interception in each of their final seven regular-season games.

Not coincidentally, they won all seven.

In the playoffs, it was more of the same as the Steelers produced an interception in their postseason-opening win over Miami and another in their victory in the Divisional Round at Kansas City.

The run of interceptions ended in the AFC Championship Game at New England.

So did the Steelers' season.

The Steelers' 13 interceptions tied for 15th in the NFL and were four fewer than the 17 they had collected in 2015. But the significance of the Steelers' INTs this season, particularly in the season's second half, resonated.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier picked off quarterback Eli Manning at the Steelers' 2-yard line with the Steelers ahead, 5-0, in the second quarter in what became a 24-14 triumph over the New York Football Giants on Dec. 4.

Timmons' interception of quarterback Andy Dalton late in the third quarter helped the Steelers inch closer from a 20-15 deficit on the way to a come-from-behind, 24-20 victory on Dec. 18 in Cincinnati.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier sealed the deal in a 31-27 victory over Baltimore on Dec. 25 with a last-play interception of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

And Shazier got his hands on a pass by Cleveland quarterback Robert Griffin III at the Steelers' 2 in the second quarter of a game the Steelers trailed, 14-0, one they would come back to win, 27-24, in overtime on Jan. 1.

The way the defense performed down the stretch was encouraging, particularly as it related to its ability to generate turnovers and who specifically was turning the ball over.

Shazier intercepted passes in the last two regular-season games and in the first two playoff games.

And cornerback Artie Burns got his hands on three opposition passes, which tied for the NFL lead among rookies.

The seven-game winning streak that got the Steelers into the playoffs featured at least one takeaway in every game and 12 of their 22 on the season, including nine of their 13 INTs.

Four times in that seven-game stretch the Steelers emerged with multiple takeaways.

That would seem as good a place as any to pick up where the Steelers left off.

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