The Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer in contention to make the playoffs following their 13-10 loss Sunday at Heinz Field to the Cincinnati Bengals but the play of the defense certainly wasn\'t the reason why they lost.
The unit that struggled to get sacks and turnovers all season sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton six times on Sunday and forced three turnovers.
Second-year cornerback Cortez Allen, who was forced to miss the game last week against the Dallas Cowboys due to a groin injury, had a coming out party of sorts against the Bengals as he recorded two interceptions, forced one fumble, and defensed three passes. Allen also recorded seven total tackles in the game.
It was not a perfect game for the Citadel product, who lined up mostly against Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, but the arrow certainly is pointed in the right direction for him as the 2012 season comes to an end next week.
While not 100% healthy, cornerback Keenan Lewis battled through a hip and knee injury to have a nice game that included two more passes defensed to add to his league leading total and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons recorded 10 total tackles in the game that included 2 sacks of Dalton. Even safety Troy Polamalu looked like his old self in the loss as he recorded a sack and 8 total tackles.
A few of the Steelers youngsters got into the mix on Sunday as undrafted cornerback Josh Victorian defensed two passes, one of which resulted in one of the two interceptions by Allen.
The Steelers defense was able to hold Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to a measly 14 yards on 15 carries Sunday and they only allowed 4 conversions on third downs out of 14 attempted.
As far as points went on Sunday, the defense allowed only 6 of them. Unfortunately the final three points allowed following the late interception thrown by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ended their shot at making the playoffs.
The Steelers defensive unit figures to have some turnover in it next season as Lewis, nose tackle Casey Hampton, and linebacker Larry Foote are all scheduled to be unrestricted free agents following the season. There is no guarantees right now that any of the three will be back. Although not a free agent following the season, linebacker James Harrison might not be back in 2013 because of his $10 million plus salary cap hit next season.
A loss is still a loss though, and had we seen more of what we saw on Sunday from the defense earlier in the season, we might just be talking about the playoffs right now. Instead, the Steelers will host the Cleveland Browns next week with pride being the only prize in that game.