The Steelers defense made creating turnovers a point of emphasis this offseason, and through five games it appears the approach they are taking is working.
The defense has six interceptions and recovered six forced fumbles through five games, with rookie Devin Bush leading the way with three fumble recoveries and an interception and T.J Watt adding two fumble recoveries and an interception.
"We just have to keep getting better at that aspect and continue to strive to be the best in that area," said Bud Dupree. "Hopefully we will see some of it translate into points, us being able to score. When we get the ball out, we have to make it that we can run with it, turn it into splash plays. We are getting the ball, now we have to turn it into splash plays so we can score."
Coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Keith Butler had the players focusing on creating turnovers during training camp, with drills focusing on knocking the ball out of the hands of ball carriers.
"Coach Tomlin just emphasized ball search," said Dupree. "Even during 11-on-11, instead of going for the tackle we are going for the ball. When we don't have pads on during the season, it's hard to tackle people so when you wrap them up you go for the ball. We did drills in camp where the second guy was a puncher, with emphasis on going in and punching the ball out on a strip sack as well. We have to turn that into guys looking to scoop and score."
Dupree has confidence that if they keep going with that approach, the defense can be a bigger asset to the offense and can help them win games.
"This is a defense that can win games," said Dupree. "We have to continue to execute at a high level. We have to take it to another level. All of the big-time players have to make plays. We have to step it up on the outside. Inside guys have to step up. Defensive backs do their job. We have to play with cohesion to make sure the defense is hot."
Good to see you: Mason Rudolph is in the NFL's concussion protocol after taking a hit against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but there was good news on Monday.
Rudolph was at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, a welcome sight for his teammates.
"I shot him a text last night, and he replied," said Cam Heyward. "To see him in person and see him doing a lot better than yesterday is a good sign."
Plenty of confidence: When Rudolph left the game on Sunday, rookie free agent Devlin Hodges, known as 'Duck' to all, came in and showed a confidence that isn't always found in a young quarterback in such a tough circumstance. Hodges completed seven of nine passes for 68 yards, and had a calm command of the offense.
That confidence didn't come as a surprise to his teammates on defense, who saw it when he went against them in training camp.
"He wasn't afraid of the moment," said Heyward. "Sometimes when you go against the No. 1 defense in camp you might be a little off your key and game. I thought from the get-go he competed, wasn't afraid to throw the ball and played with confidence on the field. Off the field he doesn't talk at all, at least to the defense. My faith is in him."
Dupree said that Hodges went all out against the defense, coming out on top multiple times.
"When you have your first and second go down, it's hard on you," said Dupree. "We've got Duck. We believe in Duck for however long Mason needs to heal. We can rally behind him and continue to move forward.
Now he gets the opportunity to go out there and shine. We are all excited for him for that."