The Steelers received big plays from different defenders during three of their goal-line stands against the Detroit Lions, including Tyson Alualu, Vince Williams, Sean Davis and Mike Hilton.
But of the eight plays from inside the 6-yard line in Ford Field on Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette argues that "nobody made as many big plays as Javon Hargrave, who is quickly becoming the most disruptive Steelers nose tackle since Casey Hampton."
It was his tackle on running back Dwayne Washington on third down at the Steelers’ 1 that highlighted the first goal-line stand in which the Lions failed to score on three plays from the 3-foot line. Hargrave hit Washington so hard the 223-pound running back’s knees buckled at impact.
“When you buckle backs like that in the hole, those are the kind of hits that win games,” former offensive lineman Brian Baldinger said on NFL Network, where he works as an analyst.
“He was going to win that or I was going to win that,” Hargrave told the Post-Gazette. “He wasn’t getting in.”
Then, on the Lions’ final chance to tie the game from the Steelers’ 8, Hargrave took center Travis Swanson and pushed him back to quarterback Matthew Stafford, forcing a quick and errant throw that Ryan Shazier almost intercepted, effectively ending the game.
“He put [Swanson] in the quarterback’s lap,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said.
“I got one-on-one with the center, and I ended up winning it,” Hargrave said. “That was good.”
Hargrave, a third-round pick in 2016, "is developing into the type of powerful interior lineman that is becoming vogue in the NFL," wrote the Post-Gazette.
“I don’t call it undersized,” Hargrave said. “When you’re this low you can get under some of the bigger dudes. That’s kind of our advantage. In the trenches it’s all about your leverage. We naturally have good leverage coming off ball, so most of the time we’re going to win that.”
After eight games, he has already equaled his sack total (2) from the 2016 regular season and is tied with outside linebacker Bud Dupree with 18 tackles, 10th most on the team.
“He’s extraordinarily quick for his size,” Butler said. “You wouldn’t think it. You’d sit there and say, ‘This guy can’t move like that.’ He does.”