View Full Version : Harris: Steelers defense too passive

09-28-2009, 11:04 PM
Harris: Steelers defense too passive
By John Harris
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm prepared to tell you why, even though the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears picked the Steelers defense clean in the fourth quarter like a Thanksgiving turkey, the problem isn't with the players as much as with the team's late-game approach.

Normally, it's stupid to disagree with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. He has Hall of Fame credentials as a player and coach. His defense has been ranked No. 1 in the NFL the past two seasons and is currently No. 8.

LeBeau knows more about defense than everyone in the Steeler Nation combined. He's a living legend.

That said, LeBeau's defense hasn't been overly aggressive in 2009, particularly in late-game situations.

The Steelers aren't blitzing opposing quarterbacks as much in the fourth quarter. They're playing more zone defense than they did in winning Super Bowl XLIII last season. What's more, they're not playing enough man-to-man defense featuring cornerback Ike Taylor.

Not wanting to get beat deep, the Steelers defense settled for a slow death in the fourth quarter of both losses this season. Instead of attacking, the players sat back in coverage and kept everything in front of them.

Relatively free from the Steelers' rush, Cincinnati's Carson Palmer and Chicago's Jay Cutler combined to direct their teams to a total of four scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

It follows that the Steelers will face more of the same short-passing attack when San Diego visits Heinz Field on Sunday.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will watch tape of the Steelers and see that Palmer and Cutler had plenty of time to check down to open receivers underneath coverage. Rivers will notice the Steelers blitzed a defensive back only once and utilized a four-man rush in 15 pass plays in Cincinnati's final two drives in the fourth quarter.

Defensive back Keiwan Ratliff's blitz forced Palmer to scramble to his right and resulted in an incompletion, even though Laveranues Coles was wide open for a touchdown on the other side of the field. Because of the pressure, Palmer couldn't turn his body to see Coles.

"With the way our guys played up front, there was no reason to leave the pocket," Palmer said. "The pockets were so nice with a lot of room to step up and throw, there wasn't a reason to step outside the pocket until late in the game.":banging::banging::mad:

For two straight weeks, the defense came up short in the fourth quarter.

But even without injured Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, the Steelers have enough personnel to be disruptive if LeBeau turns his players loose.

Last year, Taylor's ability to not only play man-to-man but also defend half the field permitted the Steelers to zone the other half of the field while bringing an extra defender in the box either as a pass rusher or run stopper.

Taylor's strength in man-to-man coverage enables the Steelers to blitz more and gives the defense a better opportunity to pressure the quarterback. Taylor was at his best matched against Cincinnati's Chad Ochocinco in solo coverage, and he broke up three passes on the Bengals' final drive.

"They brought some pressure in the first half," Palmer said. "They did a good job of bringing more guys than we could block and covering our hot routes. Our coaches made some great adjustments in the locker room. We played more on our toes as opposed to sitting back on our heels. We played more aggressively and it paid off."

What the Steelers defense did to teams last year, their opponents are now doing to them.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

tony hipchest
09-28-2009, 11:18 PM
But even without injured Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, the Steelers have enough personnel to be disruptive if LeBeau turns his players loose.

yet another idiot who thinks troy polamalu's impact is easily replaceable in this defense.

if he was so easily replaceable, why the hell did we pay him $6 mil./year?

09-28-2009, 11:20 PM
So true, so true....

09-29-2009, 12:33 AM
even without injured Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, the Steelers have enough personnel to be disruptive if LeBeau turns his players loose

i agree with this statement. obviously the steelers are better with polamaul than without, but they should be able to remain aggressive without him in the lineup.

09-29-2009, 01:50 AM
they should still be a great defense without him, and with him, the very best