It wasn’t about what inside linebacker Mark Barron revealed to the Steelers about the Rams in advance nearly as much as it was what Barron wanted to show the Rams about the Steelers once the ball was kicked off.
“I gave what information I could,” Barron said Sunday evening, after another dominating defensive effort in a 17-12 victory over the Rams, Barron’s former team. “Honestly, I don’t think I gave anything that was substantial to the way we performed. I think what we did was just a testament to us preparing the right way and going out and playing good defensive football.
“It wasn’t about any information that I gave. Do not take that away from this defense because it had nothing to do with any information I gave. We just went out and played a great game.”
The Steelers’ defense held the Rams to 306 total net yards, to a 1-for-14 performance on third downs, kept the visitors’ offense out of the end zone and scored a touchdown on a sack and strip by defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown by free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The defense also sealed the deal with a tip-pick off cornerback Joe Haden to Fitzpatrick with 20 seconds left it the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t because they knew what was coming beyond anything they were able to glean in their standard, pre-game opponent study.
“He didn’t give me anything,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt insisted of Barron. “But he was playing really well, flying around, making a lot of plays for us.”
Barron, who was with the Rams from 2014 through Super Bowl LIII last February, helped lead the charge with a team-leading 10 tackles (all solo) and a pass defensed.
With the game up for grabs late, the Steelers leaned heavily on their six-defensive backs “dime” defense with Barron as the lone inside linebacker on the field.
The Rams turned the ball over on downs on a possession that began at their 34-yard line with 2:39 remaining and had another that started at the Rams’ 40 with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter stopped on the tip-pick.
“First of all, it’s a game and I’m a competitor and I love playing this game so I wanted to win to begin with,” Barron said. “And then you add the fact it’s my old squad, who I played with most of my career.
“I most definitely wanted to go out and make it look the way it did.”
THE MISSING MINKAH: Outside linebacker Bud Dupree was asked if Fitzpatrick has emerged as the missing piece to the defensive puzzle.
“Probably so, more than likely, yeah,” Dupree said. “That’s what it looks like, right?”
Dupree also declared acquiring Fitzpatrick in a trade with Miami that included sending the Steelers’ 2020 first-round draft pick to the Dolphins a bargain.
“(General Manager) Kevin Colbert should have given away four picks for him,” Dupree said.
FOURTH-AND-GO-FOR-IT: Leading 14-12 midway through the fourth quarter, the Steelers opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their 34-yard line.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph ran a bootleg to the right and found running back Trey Edmunds for a 6-yard gain that kept alive a possession that ultimately ended with a 33-yard field goal by Chris Boswell and a 17-12 advantage.
“You know how we are, we take chances and I love it,” Edmunds said. “Coach called it and the offense executed.”
LINE RE-DESIGN: Right offensive tackle Matt Feiler moved to left guard and Chukwuma Okorafor, who hadn’t played all season, started at right tackle in a redistribution of labor designed to get the Steelers’ best pass protectors on the field against Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Donald wound up with five tackles, three quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss and half a sack on a safety in the third quarter.
“It didn’t hurt us, that’s for sure,” guard David DeCastro said. “He’s one heck of a player. We did enough to keep him away. He had his plays but we won the game.”
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 10 game against the Los Angeles Rams at Heinz Field
DIVISION OF LABOR: As the defense continues to dominate, Rudolph would like to see the offense do more than just enough.
“They’re playing like the ’85 Bears,” Rudolph said. “Our defense is playing lights out. There’s going to be a game moving forward where maybe they’re not going to be able to put seven points up for us and we gotta step in and we gotta produce more. It’s a team game, yes, but we gotta have their backs more moving forward.
“We’re gonna continue getting better. I think (Sunday) was a good step in the right direction.”