View Full Version : Steelers show they can tone down pressure and still dominate

01-20-2009, 10:35 PM
Steelers show they can tone down pressure and still dominate
By Tom Danyluk (danyluk1@yahoo.com)
Jan. 20, 2009

PITTSBURGH — Joe Flacco was 9-for-23 passing in his first pro playoff game, and he went 11-for-22 in the next. Those are losing QB numbers. Obituary data. But the Baltimore rookie didn’t turn it over in either game and the Ravens won them both and Flacco apologized for the shabby threads and got himself ready for a real blood game — the AFC championship in Pittsburgh.

Conventional defense says that you send a message early when a spit-shined kid like Flacco is trying to beat you. That you conjure up the rush demons and make him jumpy and fling him to the ground and then see what he has left to say. A year ago he was gunning down William & Mary and West Chester types, but, hey, now it’s the roughneck Steelers and they’ve been snuffing blood in the pocket since the earth was cooling.

“Pressure,” Steelers OLB James Harrison said, “makes any quarterback uncomfortable. Doesn’t matter if he’s a rookie or a 10-year veteran.”

In the wild-card game, Miami sent the stormtroopers after Flacco and he burned them with a pair of 31-yarders that became field goals, but overall it was the shaky kind of performance the Dolphins were hoping for. In the end, it was the Miami offense taking the pipe offensively on the day with five turnovers.

“Then Flacco was able to beat Tennessee with another couple of long throws,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau explained. “He scored on one and got deep down the field on the other. Sending only two or three receivers out on patterns has been one of Baltimore's ways of attacking. Which makes it very hard to blitz them because you’ve got that big line packed in there.”

Which meant LeBeau would cut the blitz recipe in half … the five- and six-man thrusts … and instead had safety Troy Polamalu set up deep like Willie Mays tracking fly balls. A vanilla three- or four-man rush forced Flacco into three interceptions and three sacks, and the postgame stat book was again littered with “J.Flacco, incompete” entries. A 13-for-30 day, the kind of numbers LeBeau was dreaming of, and a rookie storybook gets torn to pieces.

Someone asked Flacco if he just ran out of steam … the long season … hitting the wall. He shrugged it off.

“I don’t believe in that stuff. I’ve said that all year ... Early on we were trying to take some shots and see if we can get them over the top, but they did a good job of sitting back, not giving us anywhere to go with the ball. Just throwaways, things like that,” he said.

“We just tried to get pressure on him” Steelers DE Brett Keisel said, “not necessarily to get sacks but to let him know we’re coming. Not a lot of blitzing, and I think that threw him off a little bit. He’d be looking downfield at his receivers and see there were sometimes two or three guys on each man.

“We just knew there was a lot of pressure on him as a rookie quarterback and we tried to add to it. We didn’t think that he could get out from a rush and scramble like some quarterbacks do in this league. He typically gets out of the pocket but still looks downfield. So we just sat back and let him throw it to us.”

The driftnet theory — knotting up whatever swims by and drowning it.

“Coach LeBeau really surprised us with some of his calls,” Polamalu said. “I mean, we played a lot of cover-2 today, which a lot of people don’t want to play against Baltimore because they have such an awesome rush offense. On the other hand they did come out and try to pass a lot, so Coach LeBeau was a step ahead.”

And the coach made sure to mention a pair of interference penalties that gave him his only heartburn of the day. That’s because both led to short Ravens touchdowns, quickies, each on the very next snap.

“On one of them [CB Ike Taylor] never turned around,” LeBeau said, “but the other interference penalty [on Bryant McFadden] was very marginal. Other than those two plays, our defensive backs played tremendously. They did a good job of not letting anybody get behind them. And then Troy's big play (40-yard interception return for touchdown) flipped a two-point game into a nine-point game. …”

Next up for the Steelers — Kurt Warner in the big payoff game. No rookie walls … no driftnets here. The Super Bowl, once upon a time, was familiar territory for the old man. Now he’s enjoying a resurgence, and he still can beat pressure with a quick read, and if you give him time he’ll cut up a soft zone with one of those lasers.

LeBeau knows all this. Over the next two weeks he sharpens the harpoons.

01-20-2009, 10:53 PM
nice article thanks for posting!

01-21-2009, 07:10 AM
Great read and thanks for posting Mesa. And that is why LeBeau is the best DC in the business. And I guarantee he will have some new wrinkle for Warner and company as well. Of course pressure will be key against the Cardinals, but we also need to make sure and tackle well. And to think LeBeau has 2 weeks to prepare for the Cardinals. I like our chances.

01-21-2009, 07:39 AM
Very nice read mesa - thanks! :drink:

Damn - I can't wait for this game to see what Lebeau is going to throw at the Cards O! It's like unwrapping yet another Christmas present! :tt02: