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lamberts-lost-tooth
12-03-2006, 08:42 AM
By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, December 3, 2006


The protection issues the Steelers are groping with heading into this afternoon's game against Tampa Bay include solving it as well as providing it.
Yes, the Steelers gave up nine sacks last Sunday while losing, 27-0, in Baltimore. And yes, they're going to have to shore up their pass blocking if they hope to keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger alive, let alone upright and functioning against the Buccaneers.

But an equally frustrating, albeit less painful aspect of that 27-0 pounding the Steelers absorbed at the hands of the Ravens revolves around how many times the Steelers got quarterback Steve McNair on the ground.

They never did.

That snapped the Steelers' NFL-high streak of recording at least one sack in 27 consecutive games.

For an afternoon at least, "Blitzburgh" became a quiet, sleepy little hamlet in which it was perfectly safe for an opposing QB to drop back into the pocket.

Or was it?

"We had pressure in the game (at Baltimore), it's just that McNair is such a good quarterback he was going 'one-two-three, gone'" defensive end Brett Keisel said. "That's the way it's been with all the quarterbacks.

"It seems like we're there, but it's not quick enough."

It was especially that way against McNair and the Ravens.

"(Linebacker) Joey (Porter) hit him like four times right when he released the ball," Keisel said.

Falling behind 17-0 after two quarters and 24-0 midway through the third limited the Steelers' opportunities to stalk McNair.

The Ravens attempted just 10 passes in the second half.

As for the 17 they tried in the first half, few beyond the double-move, 20-yard TD pass McNair executed to tight end Todd Heap required any significant time to be spent in the pocket.

"We didn't really have that many drop-back situations," linebacker Larry Foote said. "If they'd have been trying to pass, we would have had pressure."

The Steelers have had pressure this season, but they haven't been able to generate it on a week-to-week basis.

Their 29 sacks overall rank tied for sixth in the NFL and the 2.6 sacks per game the Steelers have been averaging compares with last season's 2.9 pace that resulted in 47 regular-season quarterback drops.

But this year's Steelers have also failed to register more than one sack six times in 11 tries, including last Sunday's shutout.

That happened just four times in 2005, including a postseason run that saw the Steelers pile up 15 sacks in four games through Super Bowl XL.

"If they truly want to, they're not going to let you get any sacks," Foote said. "Some games, they're going to keep everybody in (in max-protection), and that's the way it is.

"But of course we can be better."

Rattling the cage of Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who has been dropped 17 times in his first eight NFL starts, would go a long way toward easing the frustration of a defense that's still smarting from what it endured a week ago in Baltimore.

"It's something we need to get better at," Keisel said. "We need to get there quicker, but I still feel like we're getting a lot of pressure on them.

"It's been like that all year, though. It seems like whatever we do, we can't quite get over the hump."

SteelCityMan786
12-03-2006, 08:44 AM
One thing that we've been bad it this year is making sacks. If we get pressure on Gradkowski today there is nothing Tampa really can do.

floodcitygirl
12-03-2006, 09:54 AM
Seeing Gradkowski staring at the sky would be a great thing. But for the love of God and Steeler football, can you PLEASE keep Ben from joining him????!!!! :thumbsup:

83-Steelers-43
12-03-2006, 10:23 AM
If we get pressure on Gradkowski today there is nothing Tampa really can do.

I agree completely. Rattle the rookie and bring the house.