View Full Version : Physical defense paces Steelers

12-06-2008, 09:35 AM
Physical defense paces Steelers
By John Harris
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Steelers inside linebacker Larry Foote has watched teammate Ryan Clark's brutal hit against New England's Wes Welker on the highlight reels this week. Foote hopes the Dallas Cowboys receivers have been watching the play, too.

"You hope ESPN keeps showing it and showing it," Foote said. "Hopefully, the Cowboys will see it, and they'll start looking across the middle. Late in the fourth quarter, (maybe) a receiver will drop it thinking about the hit."

The Steelers, who host Dallas at 4:15 p.m. Sunday, feature some of the league's hardest hitters.

"Whether people want to admit it or not, we've always been an intimidating defense," Foote said. "We smash the run. Teams know what time it is."

Hammer time.

"Any receiver going across the middle has got to keep his eyes open," Foote said. "Our DBs hit, everybody hits. Our motto is big guys run, small guys gotta hit hard."

Clark's continued aggressiveness could pay dividends against future opponents.

"We're trying to set a tone that we're going to be physical," said Clark, who starts at safety.

New England's Randy Moss, who was routinely jammed at the line of scrimmage by cornerback Ike Taylor, dropped two passes, including a sure touchdown, against the Steelers.

The previous week, Moss berated the Dolphins for assigning a single cornerback to cover him on certain plays. Moss caught three touchdown passes against the Dolphins and none against the Steelers.

Trent Dilfer, a former NFL quarterback turned ESPN analyst, believes the Steelers' physical defense creates miscues such as dropped passes.

"You always wonder why teams make those mistakes," Dilfer said on the air this week. "That happens every week with the Steelers and their opponents because they are so physical. It causes the offense to get skittish, and they make uncharacteristic mistakes."

NFL.com's Gil Brandt, who was vice president of player personnel for Dallas when the Cowboys lost to the Steelers in Super Bowls X and XIII, is another league veteran who praises the Steelers' hard-hitting defense.

"They might be every bit as good a defense as the two Super Bowl teams that we played against," he said. "I think (defensive coordinator Dick) LeBeau should go to the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame for what he does."

Brandt said it's now more difficult to play defense than when the Steel Curtain dominated pro football. In 1977, the NFL legislated rule changes to open up the game, including taking away the head slap. The following year, offensive linemen were permitted to use their hands when blocking and defenses were prevented from making contact with receivers beyond 5 yards.

"The rule changes," Brandt said, "make it much, much harder to play defense."

Notes: Steelers safety Troy Polamalu returned to practice Friday after missing the first two practices of the week because of a calf injury. Defensive end Brett Keisel (knee) and tackle Marvel Smith (back) are out for the Dallas game. ... Cowboys running back Marion Barber, who suffered a dislocated right toe against Seattle in the Thanksgiving Day game, will be a game-time decision. NFL sack leader DeMarcus Ware, who returned to practice Thursday for the first time since hyperextending his left knee against Seattle, will wear a knee brace against the Steelers. ... Dallas coach Wade Phillips said CB Adam "Pacman" Jones likely will return kickoffs and punts in his first game back after missing six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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(Somewhere Jack Lambert is smiling about the way the Steelers are playing defense. My one regret about using the 3-4 is that we don't have the middle linebacker position any more. But the game is changed and 3-4 zone blitz works well. After all if it was good enough for Emperor Noll it's good enough for me. - mesa)

12-06-2008, 02:29 PM
Great read and thanks for sharing Mesa. You have to love everything about the 2008 Steelers defense. We got away from physical football on the offensive side except for Ward, but glad the defense loves to hit and play physical football. Everyone on this defense has stepped it up this year.