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lamberts-lost-tooth
08-03-2008, 04:51 AM
Will parade of passers pass Steelers by this year?
Top priority for defense will be to find ways to force more turnovers
Sunday, August 03, 2008
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Very few voices have been raised in anger on Saint Vincent's lush practice fields this week, perhaps in deference to the college's tradition of Benedictine monasticism, but one entreaty cracked the otherwise consistently civil decibel levels, and it went something like this:

"INTERCEPT THE BALL!"

A deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger had fallen harmlessly to the lawn from a flail of flying arms and legs, but a defensive staffer saw instead a missed opportunity by a Steelers defense that can't afford to miss many.

"C'MON MAN, WE'RE TRYING TO GET OFF THE FIELD!"

This is a team, you might have noted, that intercepted only 11 passes last season, the lowest Steelers total since 1990 and barely half the total of the previous season. Improvement in that subset of the takeaway column would be mandatory under most circumstances, but the competitive circumstances of the 2008 Steelers are simply fearsome.

It's well documented that the schedule for coach Mike Tomlin's second edition is perhaps the league's most challenging, but the primary element in its ridiculous degree of difficulty is the concentrated brilliance of the opposing quarterbacks.

As an attempt at specificity, the Steelers will face, in no particular order:

The top-rated passer in the NFC (Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys).

The top-rated passer in the AFC (New England's Tom Brady).

The newest Super Bowl MVP (Eli Manning of the New York Giants).

The previous Super Bowl MVP (Eli's brother in Indianapolis, Peyton).

The league's Most Improved Player (Cleveland's Derek Anderson).

All the top five quarterbacks in the 2007 passer ratings whose names don't end in Roethlisberger.

The AFC leader in passing yards per game (Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals).

The NFC leader in touchdown passes (Romo, 36).

The AFC leader in touchdown passes (Brady, 50).

Former Super Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb of Philadelphia.

Future Super Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers of San Diego.

Former national championship winning quarterback Vince Young.

Palmer again.

Anderson again.

"Just because you were good last year doesn't mean you'll be good this year," Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said, almost hopefully. "As a defense, we can't control that anyway. The thing is, we've faced all the best quarterbacks before. If we stick to our assignments, we've shown we can play with anybody."

True enough, but one guy they've shown they can't deal with, Jacksonville's David Garrard, beat them twice in the final 21 days of last season, the second being the playoff game at Heinz Field. Garrard is the only passer on the Steelers' 2008 card who did not have at least one 300-yard game last season, but he doesn't have to throw to be lethal. It was Garrard's 32-yard run on fourth-and-2 that led directly to Jacksonville's 31-29 playoff victory.

"You've got to approach it like you respect every opposing quarterback," warned Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith. "I remember when Cleveland came in a few years ago, I think it was a Thursday night or something, and Tim Couch just lit it up on us."

That would be Oct. 5, 2003, a Sunday night actually, and Couch went 20 for 25 with two touchdowns to ignite a 33-13 Cleveland romp, undoubtedly one of the better nights of his shortened if wildly anticipated NFL career.

So don't be surprised if you look up in mid-afternoon Sept. 7 and Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans is shooting up the Steelers' secondary, particularly if the Steelers haven't figured out a way to get better pressure on the passer than they did a year ago.

The 36 sacks last season were the fewest since Dick LeBeau began his second term as defensive coordinator in 2004. James Harrison led the team with 8.5 sacks, and there might not be anyone capable of more. No one has had a 10-sack year around here since Joey Porter had 10.5 in 2005.

When quarterbacks like the ones LeBeau has to game-plan for this year have enough time to make a decent sandwich before they throw, not many of their carefully considered passes are going to be picked off.

That ineffectual interception figure of 11 might be explained by the frequent absence of starting safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, or by estimating that corner Ike Taylor dropped 11 others, but, hey, everybody's got problems.

The Steelers managed only 25 takeaways total last year. Only eight of the league's 32 teams had fewer. So when Foote let a Roethlisberger bullet go right through his mitts the other afternoon, he immediately dropped and did 13 pushups.

But I guess just because you were bad at the turnover thing last year doesn't mean you're going to be bad at it this year.
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08216/901550-66.stm

Galax Steeler
08-03-2008, 07:41 AM
There were several missed opertunities last year we should have had alot more interceptions then we had.

HometownGal
08-03-2008, 07:50 AM
Hopefully, the Steelers D will play with the intensity we all know they are very capable of and get those turnover numbers up - WAY up! :tt03: I'm sure Lebeau is hard at work cooking up some new defensive schemes to facilitate that plan.

Hapa
08-03-2008, 08:09 AM
I think LeBeau is working on his blitzes more, because I think that's the main reason there are less picks. No pressure on the quarterback just makes it too easy for them.

steeltheone
08-03-2008, 08:25 AM
I think LeBeau is working on his blitzes more, because I think that's the main reason there are less picks. No pressure on the quarterback just makes it too easy for them.

So true......Qaurterbacks have had all day to throw, which leads everybody to believe our dbacks are weaker than they really are.:tt02:

millwalldavey
08-03-2008, 10:52 AM
This concerns me... Its no secret that I am the biggest complainer about the quality of our corners around here.

Towsend is getting old. Taylor is IMHO severely overrated. Maybe McFadden will get more of a chance to prove himself, especially with a contract looming. Gay impressed last preseason, but didnt see much of the field last year.

This scares me. More and more i wish Timmons could have been Revis.

Preacher
08-03-2008, 11:00 AM
I think LeBeau is working on his blitzes more, because I think that's the main reason there are less picks. No pressure on the quarterback just makes it too easy for them.

Don't forget...

Last year it seemed that there were a lot more coverage schemes and only 3 or 4 were rushing.

What killed us late in the year wasn't our pass protection, it was our run protection.

SCSTILLER
08-03-2008, 11:09 AM
It seemed to me we showed too much of our hand on the Monday night game against the Ravens when it came to blitz packages. After that game our sacks and overall pass defense seemed to go downhill after that.

Blitzburgh_Fever
08-03-2008, 12:10 PM
This concerns me... Its no secret that I am the biggest complainer about the quality of our corners around here.

Towsend is getting old. Taylor is IMHO severely overrated. Maybe McFadden will get more of a chance to prove himself, especially with a contract looming. Gay impressed last preseason, but didnt see much of the field last year.

This scares me. More and more i wish Timmons could have been Revis.

Most of the time, if you're not getting interceptions it's because your DL or LB aren't penetrating or forcing the QB out of the pocket. A corner can cover someone maybe 6-8s, if the QB can sit and wait for one of his receivers to get open, there's nothing the corner can do.

Of course, good coverage causes sacks, so there may be some truth to what you're saying. Still, Ike Taylor is as solid as anyone, he's just not flashy like Hall, Newman, or that Nmandi or whatever guy out in Oakland (he's a monster). If he fixed his hands, he'd no doubt be a Top 10 corner in the league. Townsend is old but he's brainy, and McFadden has all the physical tools. I agree we need to get someone who's explosive at corner and to replace Townsend eventually, but I have confidence in the guys we have.

Haiku_Dirtt
08-03-2008, 01:56 PM
I knew I was getting sell signals like flys swarming around a week-old carcus but this can't get any gloomier.

I couldn't start breathing until I got to Vince Young. HE can't beat us can he?

Bruce Arians will deploy enough smoke and mirrors that would make Hank Paulson proud which means about 6-7 wins.