View Full Version : Linebackers' success due to Steelers' defensive line

11-07-2008, 05:57 AM
Linebackers' success due to Steelers' defensive line
By: Jim Wexell , By For the Herald-Standard

PITTSBURGH - The Steelers' linebackers are on a record pace for sacks, but they're quick to put the credit elsewhere.

"It starts with the line," said LaMarr Woodley, a first-year starter who knows how to grease the right wheels.

"That a way to respect your elders," said Aaron Smith at the next-door locker.
Smith, of course, is the elder statesman of the Steelers' starting line, but his play's not slowing down a bit.

"Aaron Smith, they just don't block him," said coordinator Dick LeBeau. "I've been back five years and I can count on one hand the number of times in five years he's been blocked. Why people don't recognize that around the league, I don't know. He's tremendous."

And then there are the guys next to him. Casey Hampton blew open the middle of the Washington Redskins' line a couple of times Monday night. On fourth down at the one-yard line, both Hampton and Chris Hoke stacked bodies so high behind the center that the league's leading rusher wouldn't have made it back to the line even if he'd tried. The Redskins were instead wise enough - after watching tape of the Steelers' magnificent goal line stand the previous week - to throw.

The pass fell incomplete, giving the Steelers goal-line stands in successive weeks against the Nos. 1 and 2 rushing attacks in the NFL. It reflected back to the Steelers' rugged line.

"Those are huge," said Hoke. "They give your team a lot of energy, and a lot of excitement, too."

Imagine how the defense will feel the next time it's backed up at the goal line.
"Arrogance," Hoke said, before adjusting his comment. "No, confidence. There'll be some confidence for sure."

Arrogance, too, and why not? This could be the best defensive line the Steelers have had since Chuck Noll went to a 3-4 alignment back in the early 1980s.

"Across the front, I think all three of us, whoever's in there, are playing well," said Smith. "We haven't always had that. Usually there were guys here or guys there, but everybody's playing well now, even the reserves. That's the biggest thing. You can come off the field and the guy behind you will do the job. That's a big advantage, and one people don't appreciate, but it makes a big difference. You don't have to pace yourself now. You can play hard every play and come out if you need a break."
Smith used to be the Iron Horse for the Steelers, and Brett Keisel knew that all too well.

"I was behind him," Keisel said. "He never used to come out of the game. I used to beg him, but he'd say, 'Ah, no.'"

Keisel's grown into that role now. He played the most snaps of the starting three Monday, and at halftime apologized to his backup, Travis Kirschke.

"It's hard for me to come out because I really love being out there with those guys," Keisel said, and that enthusiasm shows. Keisel, the fastest of the three, came down the line at one point Monday night and nearly decapitated Clinton Portis.

Was that Keisel's favorite play of the game?

"My favorite play would probably be Aaron's sack, just because I love it when he or any interior guy gets a sack," he said. "Nick (Eason)'s sack was great, too, but I liked this one because Aaron and I have that nice little dance we bust out in if one of us gets a sack. It's sweet man."

Keisel calls this the best defensive line he's seen since he was drafted in 2002. "Just the speed we have," he said. "And the attention to detail each guy has, each position, as far as getting their job done. When coach LeBeau calls a play, we know what it's for, what it's trying to stop. I just think everybody has a real good understanding of what we can do, what we're capable of, and we go out and get it done. And it's so much fun when we do."

The Steelers lead the NFL at the halfway point in overall defense, sacks, yards per play, passing defense, yardage on first downs and red zone efficiency. They allow 2.9 yards per rush and only 70.1 rush yards per game. The Steelers have led the NFL in run defense since 2001, a reflection of the stellar line play over the years.
But this line just might be the best of the lot.

"We're blessed to have guys from top to bottom who can really play in this league," said LeBeau. "I think they've proven that, and I'm just a lucky coach to have them."

Steelers Since '75
11-07-2008, 07:09 AM
Gives me chills when I read this... makes me proud to be a Steelers fan(atic) :tt:

11-07-2008, 09:53 AM
Big Snack attack

11-07-2008, 10:03 AM
It all starts up front and the anchor is Aaron Smith. He is overlooked with 32 tackles and 1 sack, but he makes the right plays and is a player pretty tough to block.

11-07-2008, 10:12 AM
Hogwash, they're too old!!

The rotation on the D-line has been great. Obviously, Eason has a better understanding of his assignments and what's expected. Hoke and Kirschke have been playing great. Keep up the rotation, we need these guys fresh for the stretch run.

It helps that we actually have 2 OLBs that play like top DEs in obvious passing situations.

11-07-2008, 10:13 AM
Ive played in a true 3-4 back in high school since I had a college and legendary coach teach me about it, not to mention a Steeler fan but was quiet about it lol. But anyway The defensive linemen primary job is just to eat up space and if they can make plays out of their own then that is better. The way the D-line of this defense is playing is just unbelievable. They have gotten more athletic and penetrate the line very quickly without rushing upfield since it creates running lanes. Its as if opposing lines have to block 4 defensive tackles (Hampton can be 2 in one lol) and two to three extremely athletic rushers who can also drop back in coverage, its a nightmare for them.

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-07-2008, 10:27 AM
Yup, the linemen in a 3-4 occupy 1 and 2 blockers to free up the LB's to make plays. I still think Kimo VonOlhoffen was a better DE than Keisel and we are still 1 injury away from that line taking a step back.

Really good starting 3, but definately a drop off from there with Eason, Kirschke, Hoke. Hopefully they all stay healthy from now on and we find some depth in the draft like has been discussed to death.

11-07-2008, 10:39 AM
This article is pretty true. The Defensive Line is playing out of their minds right now. Smith, Hampton, Kiesel, Hoke, and even Eason are contributing. But the catalyst is Aaron Smith. He deserves to go down in history as one of the greatest Steelers 3-4 D-Linemen of all time. Right up there with the best. He may not get the sacks, but no one can deny his impact on this defense. He's so underrated in this league it's not even funny.

It also helps that Kiesel's play has tremendously improved and we actually have a bonafide pass rusher opposite of Harrison. Kirschke and Eason are playing much better too.

There's a lot on factors that come into play that make this year's Defense stand out. These guys are fun to watch.

11-07-2008, 10:45 AM
Really good article!

The defense is just exciting to watch! You wait as much for the big plays from the defense as you do for the offense!


The Duke
11-07-2008, 10:50 AM
we need to find another guy in the draft they can hopefully mold into something similiar too aaron smith for a couple years down the road

They definitely have to

I like what the dolphins got this year, both Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling are playing at a high level, and they are rookies!!

In a few years they'll be some of the best 3-4 DEs

Hopefully the steelers get some like that next year

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-07-2008, 11:55 AM
Yeah, I was hoping that we might have had a look at Red Bryant in the draft. He ended up going to Seattle in the 4th round and is 3rd string on the depth chart.....so who knows if that was such a good idea.

Then again, its not like Davis or Hills is contributing much right now either.

11-07-2008, 01:18 PM
I love watching Aaron put the beat down on guys - the whole line kills.

11-07-2008, 04:51 PM
our line is playing good... i haven't seen roye play but it's fine... our guys are playing good.. even eason.. :o

The Duke
11-07-2008, 04:56 PM
our line is playing good... i haven't seen roye play but it's fine... our guys are playing good.. even eason.. :o

roye has played too, only when keisel and hampton were down though

rest of the games he's been inactive, but when active has been just as good

11-07-2008, 05:21 PM

Hey Leftover, is that a legal signature? I hope Goodell doesn't see it or someone might get a hefty fine!