Individual and collective recognition

There are plenty of numbers available for reference that accurately depict the impact of the Steelers' defense on the team and on the NFL in 2020.

The number 2 is as appropriate as any.

Outside linebacker T.J. Watt and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick were both named First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press.

The Rams and Colts were the only other teams in the league with two first-team All-Pros on defense.

In 2020, the Steelers' defense achieved individually and collectively.

Following is a look back at just a few of the highlights:

Stuffing Saquon

Giants running back Saquon Barkley was limited to 6 yards on 15 carries (a 0.4 average per attempt) in the Steelers' season-opening, 26-16 victory on Sept. 14 at MetLife Stadium.

Barkley was coming off back-to-back, 1,000-yard seasons on the ground, so he had the Steelers' attention.

"We just wanted to smash the run first and foremost," Watt said.

The Steelers totaled 11 tackles for a loss overall, led by inside linebacker Vince Williams' three.

Of Barkley's 15 carries, eight didn't make it back to the line of scrimmage and resulted in a combined loss of 21 yards.

Shutting Down Deshaun

Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 14 of 18 passes for 202 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 150.5 in the first half on Sept. 27 at Heinz Field.

The Texans headed to the locker room after two quarters leading, 21-17.

They managed zero points in the final two quarters and the Steelers rallied for a 28-21 victory.

Watson was limited to five completions on nine attempts for 62 yards in the second half, with no touchdowns and an interception, and was sacked three times.

The Texans gained 51 total net yards on four possessions after halftime, which ended on three punts and an INT.

The closest they got to the goal line was the Steelers' 43-yard line.

Getting the MVP on the Ground

The Steelers had rallied from a 10-point, second-half deficit and grabbed a 28-24 advantage, but the Ravens were positioned to re-take the lead on third-and-5 from the Steelers' 10 with 2:27 left in regulation on Nov. 1 in Baltimore. Quarterback Lamar Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP, kept the ball in his hands, as Jackson often does in such critical situations, but nose tackle Isiah Buggs tackled Jackson after a 2-yard gain.

That set up fourth-and-3 from the 8. Jackson kept the ball again and Buggs stopped Jackson short of the line to gain again, this time with a little help from Fitzpatrick. Inside linebacker Robert Spillane wound up recovering Jackson's fumble after another 2-yard gain, and the Steelers took over with their four-point lead preserved.

Bouncing the Browns

Cleveland arrived at Heinz Field on Oct. 18 with Top 5-rankings in yards per carry (5.48, second), rushing yards per game (188.2, first), points per game (31.2, fourth) and sacks allowed per game (1.2, fourth).

Those averages took a beating against the Steelers.

The Browns were held to 3.41 yards per rushing attempt, 75 yards on the ground and seven points in a 38-7 Steelers' victory.

Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield's first pass was intercepted and returned 33 yards for a touchdown by Fitzpatrick. Mayfield wound up 10-for-18 passing, for 119 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

He was also sacked four times.

Mayfield started but he didn't finish.

Body of Work

The Steelers finished the regular season ranked in the Top 5 in the NFL in 46 statistical categories. Among them were: Tackles for a loss (first, 103), interceptions (tied for first, 18), opposing quarterback passer rating (first, 76.7), percent of passes completed against (56.7), quarterback hits (first, 136), sacks (first, 56) and takeaways (second, 27).

They recorded at least one sack in every regular season game and have done that in an NFL-record 73 consecutive games (and counting).

The Steelers were also one of five teams to finish in the Top 11 in the NFL in total, rushing and passing defense (third, 11th, third). The other four were the Ravens (seventh, eighth, sixth), the Rams (first, third, first), the Saints (fourth, fourth, fifth) and the 49ers (fifth, seventh, fourth).

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