PITTSBURGH -- When right tackle Marcus Gilbert said the Pittsburgh Steelers "have the goods to win it all," his next line was not about offensive line play or the big three of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell.
It was all about the defense and its five-sack performance in Sunday's 30-12 AFC wild-card win over the Miami Dolphins.
"I can't give it up enough about how the defense has been playing. They’ve been unbelievable, man," Gilbert said. "Best ball I’ve seen on our defensive side since 2011 when we had that vicious defense.”
That's a bold statement. That 2011 group led the NFL in total defense, with players such as Troy Polamalu and James Farrior playing at high levels.
This defense gives up 342.6 yards per game, 70-plus more than the 2011 team, but it's peaking at an ideal time.
Playing like a bunch of shirtless fools, as linebacker Ryan Shazier would have it.
"We're going to try to out-tough most teams we play," said Shazier, whose affinity for shirtless warm-ups has become a pregame fixture.
Pittsburgh's five sacks Sunday were the team's most in a postseason game since 2010. Young linemen such as L.T. Walton and Javon Hargrave -- a "mini Casey Hampton," as Gilbert calls him -- are acquitting themselves well. Linebacker Bud Dupree's vicious hit on Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore was one of his multiple disruptive plays versus Miami.