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With all else failing, Mike Tomlin went all in on his defense

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After a back and forth battle in regulation, the Steelers won the coin toss to start overtime and surprisingly, elected to defer. The strategy seemed to have paid off at the time, as the Steelers’ defense stepped up with the best stand of the game.

“I put our defense on the field in an effort to fight for field position and put the onus on them to get the stop,” Tomlin said. “When we got the ball, we got it on the 30-something which is dramatically different than when our kickoff return team took the field all afternoon.”

Stephon Tuitt stuffed Mark Ingram for a one yard loss to the Baltimore 24 on first down, Lamar Jackson was sacked on second down, pushing the ball back four more yards, and Jackson threw a one yard completion on third down, which resulted in only the third Ravens’ punt of the game.

Defensive lineman Cam Heyward agreed with the untraditional call to win the toss in overtime and not take the ball first.

“Coach [Tomlin] said he was going to put [the defense] on the field. I fully supported the decision. If you [stop the Ravens] then all you need is a field goal to win,” Heyward said. “I’ll ride with that game plan every time. We embrace those challenges.”

Heyward felt the defense did not make enough stops, especially in critical times in the game. The defense gave up a game-tying field goal drive in the final minutes of the game, and a game-winning field goal drive after JuJu Smith=Shuster’s fumble.

“We had our chances. We didn’t get off the field enough. As a defense, we talked about winning the game in the last two minutes and we didn’t get the job done,” Heyward said. “When you have a kicker like that, you gotta get off the field before they cross the 50.”

Defensive end Bud Dupree also agreed with the decision to defer after winning the coin toss in overtime.

“That didn’t surprise me. We believe we can get a stop. We’re on a mission on defense,u” Dupree said. “Coach [Tomlin] always puts the game on [the defense]. They believe in us.”

The defense held up its end of the bargain in overtime by holding the Ravens to the three and out and forcing the punt. The Steelers took over at their 32 yard line and James Conner ran for three yards on first down.

On second down, however, JuJu Smith Schuster caught a ten-yard pass and tried turning the corner at the 45 yard line but cornerback Marlon Humphry punched the ball out and recovered the fumble at the Steelers 34 yard line. He also agreed with Tomlin’s decision to put the defense on the field first.

“Coach made a good call. He was expecting the defense to stop them, which they did, and we got the ball back,” Smith-Schuster said. “The game was on the line. It was overtime. My plan was to catch it and try to get up-field. [Humphrey] made a great play. I didn’t do a good job handling the ball and turned it over.”

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