Plenty to choose from

When you collect 27 takeaways only Miami had more with 29 they can have a tendency to all run together in retrospect.

Another one and another one and another one, and so it went for the Steelers in 2020.

But a few nonetheless stood out.

Following is a look back at some of 2020's most memorable takeaways:

Sept 14, at the New York Football Giants: Defensive tackle Cam Heyward's interception

The Steelers led the regular-season opener, 16-10, when the Giants took over at their 9-yard line with 12:07 left in the third quarter. The next 18 plays saw the Giants gain 87 yards to the Steelers' 4. But on second-and-3 outside linebacker Bud Dupree flushed quarterback Daniel Jones far off course on what had begun as a bootleg left and got a piece of the ball as Jones retreated and let a desperation heave toward the end zone fly. The fluttering pass was intercepted by Heyward just inside the goal line (surround by Heyward might be a better description), the first interception of Heyward's 10-year career.

A 19-play drive that used up 8:50 of the third quarter and could have either given the Giants the lead or brought them to within three instead produced nothing. The Steelers went on to win, 26-16.

Nov. 8, at Dallas: Free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick's interception

The Steelers had closed to within 19-15 on the first play of the fourth quarter in a game they had once trailed, 13-0. But a 64-yard kickoff return to the Steelers' 36 and a couple of subsequent first downs helped position the Cowboys for a third-and-goal from the Steelers' 5. A field goal would give Dallas a seven-point lead and a touchdown would make it a two-score game again.

Instead, the Cowboys got nothing.

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert, while in the process of being dragged down by Heyward, got off a pass for wide receiver Cedrick Wilson that ended up well off target. Fitzpatrick adjusted to the ball and came up with an interception in the end zone. Although a penalty on his return forced the Steelers to begin the next possession at their 1, a crisis had been averted. The Steelers kept coming from there and eventually outlasted the Cowboys, 24-19.

Dec. 27, Indianapolis: Cornerback Mike Hilton's interception

The Steelers had trailed, 24-7, in the third quarter but now they were trying to protect a 28-24 lead in the fourth. The first step toward closing out another come-from-behind victory was to get the ball back. Hilton accomplished that by setting under a deep ball from quarterback Philip Rivers intended for wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. on first-and-10 from the Indianapolis 47 with 6:12 remaining in regulation. Rivers, under pressure from outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, overshot his intended target and Hilton tracked the ball and made an over-the-shoulder grab. The offense couldn't quite run the clock out but another stop by the defense ended up preserving a 28-24 victory.

Nov. 1, at Baltimore: Highsmith's interception

The Steelers, trailing by 10, could't do anything with the first possession of the third quarter and punted the ball back to the Ravens. But Highsmith, a rookie third-round selection, got it right back for the Steelers with an interception and 2-yard return to the Baltimore 21 on a play he'd been vicitmized on in the first half.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit tight end Eric Ebron for an 18-yard touchdown two snaps after Highsmith's pick and the Steelers pulled to within 17-14 on the way to a 28-24 triumph.

"I knew they were coming back to that because they ran the same play in the first half and I didn't drop deep enough and he threw it over my head," Highsmith explained. "I learned from that play and just dropped deeper."

At that juncture outside linebacker T.J. Watt interrupted Highsmith's Zoom session with the media.

"That's a great answer, he learned from the play," Watt emphasized.

Added Highsmith: "The ball fell right into my hands. I learned from my mistake."

Oct. 11, Philadelphia: Cornerback Steven Nelson's interception

The Steelers and Eagles had been trading punches, but a touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter had established a little much-needed breathing room for the Steelers at 24-14. Nelson's diving interception and 3-yard return to the Philadelphia 23 on second-and-10 from the Eagles' 15 with 12:51 left in the third set the Steelers up to achieve some much-needed separation. Quarterback Carson Wentz threw off target for tight end Zach Wertz and Nelson looked like a wide receiver in adjusting to the ball and laying out to pull it into his grasp. A subsequent short-field drive for a touchdown put the Steelers up. 31-14. Nelson would provide the exclamation point to the Steelers' 38-29 victory with his second interception of the day with 2:20 left in regulation.

Related Content

Advertising