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GBMelBlount
08-24-2008, 06:20 PM
Steelers' defense looks ready to go

MINNEAPOLIS

What a difference a game plan makes.

As advertised, the Steelers promised to pretend that Saturday night's preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings was actually a regular-season contest.

story continues below



No more plain-vanilla defense. More like tutti-frutti.

Starting with a steady diet of Aaron Smith terrorizing Minnesota's backfield.

Smith, the starting left end, looked as quick and strong as he did at any point last season before suffering a biceps injury that caused him to miss the final four games. He had three tackles and one sack in the first quarter.

Led by Smith, the Steelers limited Minnesota to 13 yards on its first eight plays.

On Minnesota's opening drive, the Steelers' different looks confused the Vikings, who were called for three false starts and were forced to punt after failing to convert on third and 23.

During that series, second-year linebacker Lawrence Timmons, becoming more and more of a fixture in the rotation, flanked out wide to his left and shadowed receiver Aundrae Allison.

The Steelers were most dangerous when they had only two defensive linemen on the field, Smith and right end Brett Keisel. The formation worked best in obvious passing situations, which was a tribute to the Steelers and their ability to stifle dangerous running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson never got untracked. He leaped over the top of the defense for a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter following a Rashard Mendenhall fumble at the Steelers' 47.

Faced with a short field, the Steelers couldn't shut down Minnesota's short passing game and failed to keep the Vikings out of the end zone.

Still, the Steelers provided evidence that they learned a lesson from last week's loss to Buffalo. Their defense aggressively attacked the ball but did so within the confines of the system.

When Peterson attempted to run wide left on first and goal, the Steelers remained in their lanes and strung out the play. Safety Tyrone Carter and Timmons pushed Peterson out of bounds for a 3-yard loss.

In the second quarter, cornerback Ike Taylor jumped a sideline route and intercepted Gus Frerotte's pass intended for Sidney Rice, giving the Steelers a first down deep in Minnesota territory.

The turnover gift-wrapped a Jeff Reed field goal that sliced Minnesota's lead to 7-3 while providing more than enough evidence that the regular season can't start soon enough for the Steelers' defense.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_584646.html

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, August 24, 2008

cubanstogie
08-24-2008, 06:47 PM
It makes you wonder what we would have done last year with Aaron Smith. I know injuries part of the game but that was a huge loss. Our defense dropped off big time when he tore the bicep muscle. I know our O-line was below average but we still managed to score. The last few big games we couldn't stop anyone defensively. I know we need to address O-line but we also need D-line just as bad.

Stlrs4Life
08-24-2008, 07:55 PM
More on Smith:

Smith's return aids Steelers' run defense
Sunday, August 24, 2008
BY DALE GRDNIC
For The Patriot-News

PITTSBURGH - When asked who are the most invalu able Pittsburgh Steelers players, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, tailback Willie Parker and wideout Hines Ward come to mind on offense.

Safety Troy Polamalu would be among the first defensive players mentioned.

Those clearly are the most popular Steelers, as well as being stalwarts on offense and defense.

However, the club's success on defense, especially against the run, diminished considerably after end Aaron Smith suffered a torn right biceps muscle during the game at New England Dec. 9, 2007.

Smith, however, was hesitant to take credit, and he really couldn't put his finger on what changed with the Steelers' defense late in the season.

"I think the guys we have as backups are very capable of doing the job themselves," Smith said.

"I think there's more to it than just saying 'Aaron wasn't playing.' I mean, the fact is there are 11 guys out there. Travis and Nick and the other guys are very capable of getting the job done."

The Steelers obviously believed that, because they re-signed Nick Eason and veteran Travis Kirschke in the offseason.

However, the Steelers clearly were not as good against the run in the six games Smith missed due to a knee problem (two games) and after the biceps injury (four).

The 32-year-old Smith, in his 10th season, had not missed a game since 1999.

The Steelers allowed 71.7 rushing yards per game during the 11 games Smith played, which would have ranked the unit first in the NFL.

In the six games that he missed, the Steelers allowed 130.7 rushing yards per game, and that would have ranked the club nearly last, 28th of the 32 NFL teams.

Surely there are other reasons the Steelers were so successful before Smith's injury and then sank like a rock in the NFL rankings for rushing yards allowed, Smith asked again, but he only needed to look in the mirror.

"Aaron Smith is an All-Pro player," longtime Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell said.

"He's one of the best defensive linemen in the National Football League. If you would ask me what player in this league I would rather have besides Aaron Smith, there wouldn't be one. It would be Aaron Smith."

Despite playing left end in the Steelers' 3-4 defensive alignment, the 6-foot-5, 298-pound Smith cracked the team's top 10 into the ninth spot with 36 career sacks.

But his forte is stuffing the run with behemoth nose tackle Casey Hampton providing support from the middle. While Hampton occupies two and three blockers, Smith can eliminate his blocker and get to the ball-carrier.

Since he is freakishly strong and quick for his size, with powerful hands, Smith usually is met by multiple blockers as well. That allows the Steelers linebackers to fill the gaps and make tackles on opposing running backs.

But outside the Steelers offices, Smith rarely gets recognized, as he has just one Pro Bowl honor in the nine previous seasons (2005).

That doesn't seem to matter to the laid-back Smith. Fellow end Brett Keisel believes otherwise.

"Aaron's the best, no doubt about it," Keisel said. "We all look to him on the D-line. He's the veteran out there, and he always plays hard. He deserves any accolade he gets, and he should get more. And when he was out last year, you see what happened. We clearly need him to be healthy this season."

Some might believe that Smith's health is a concern, but he isn't worried.

"I think it'll probably be stronger than my other one, to be honest with you," Smith said.

"My arm was helped during my rehab. My feeling is it's something that I've probably been playing with for a while, and that was the final straw. [But] I feel great. I can do everything I need to do to play."

Smith was brought along slowly during the spring, but he steadily picked up speed during training camp and should be ready for the season opener with the Houston Texans at 1 p.m. Sept. 7 at Heinz Field.

Until then, he can be found working out in the weight room or on the practice field.

"I feel like I need to work every day," Smith said. "I'm the type of guy that needs to be out there on the field. So, it was tough for me to watch the games last year when I was injured at the end of the season.

"We take pride in stopping the run, so for me to be out and actually watch that happen and not be able to help or do anything about it was hard.

"[But] I think we'll be back to our former level, if not better, this season."

As long as Smith stays healthy, that's a safe bet.

2008 The Patriot-News
2008 PennLive.com All Rights Reserved.

Galax Steeler
08-25-2008, 03:25 AM
Good to hear our deffense is starting to click I belive our deffense will be ranked up near the top againg this year and our linbacking core will be one if not the best out there this year.

HometownGal
08-25-2008, 07:01 AM
Nice reads. :thumbsup:

I think it's safe to say that Aaron Smith is a very integral part of the Steelers D. The difference in the numbers with him in there vis-a-vis after he was injured are staggering!

He looked great on Saturday night against the Vikes and was just as intense as ever.

Glad to have you back Aaron! :applaudit::tt02:

Alva Lord
08-25-2008, 11:07 AM
The only line I take issue with is, "The Steelers obviously believed that, because they re-signed Nick Eason and veteran Travis Kirschke in the offseason"

The fact is the Steelers "reluctantly" re-signed Nick Eason and Travis Kirschke in the off season. The only reason why Eason was re-signed to a one year deal was his experience in their defense. Going into training camp the coaching staff had high hopes that Ryan McBean would take his job therefore allowing them to cut him and his salary. McBean was a huge disappointment and looks to be on the first wave of cuts. McBean's failure was also the catalyst for the signing of Orpheus Roy.