View Full Version : Steelers losing turnover battle

10-01-2009, 11:13 PM
Steelers losing turnover battle
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer, dlolley@observer-reporter.com

This article has been read 469 times.

PITTSBURGH - For most NFL teams, being ranked eighth in the league in total defense would be a reason to celebrate.

In Pittsburgh, ranking eighth is a reason to open an investigation into what is plaguing the team.

Nearly as troubling are the lack of sacks and turnovers forced by the Steelers in their first three games.

Pittsburgh has just five sacks and has forced only two turnovers in its first three games. Only Miami has fewer turnovers.

"Part of playing great defense is getting turnovers, shortening the field for your offense, standing up in situational football and applying pressure to the quarterback," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "Those are some of the things we need to improve."

How to do that remains the question.

Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, who combined for a team-record 27.5 sacks in 2008, have just one this season.

"Sometimes a team almost has to do something special for those guys. Those guys are excellent rushers and get to the quarterback and get to them fast," linebacker James Farrior said. "You can definitely see a game plan going in to stop those guys. We've got to do things to combat that."

Pittsburgh also has thrived over the years running Dick LeBeau's multi-dimensional zone blitz scheme.

But lately, the blitzers haven't been getting to the quarterback and the turnovers haven't been happening.

"All of our blitzes have worked (in the past)," said Farrior. "If it doesn't work, it's not going to be in the game plan. The stuff that we do usually works.

"Our blitzes are working so far. We might not have the sacks to prove it. Pressure is just as good as sacks and we have somebody in (the quarterback's) face making him do something he doesn't want to do, that's just as good as a sack."

Yet quarterbacks are completing 62.7 percent of their throws and have a passer rating of 87.8 against the Steelers.

The Steelers have thrived on disguising their defense until just before the snap, creating surprise and confusing for opponents. That led to blitzers getting a free run to the quarterback or, at least, poor throws.

But in Sunday's 23-20 loss at Cincinnati, Bengals' quarterback Carson Palmer audibled at the line of scrimmage a number of times in the second half, calling the perfect play to combat Pittsburgh's blitz.

On Cedric Benson's 23-yard touchdown run early in the quarter that trimmed Pittsburgh's lead to 20-15, the outside and inside linebackers swapped positions and Palmer checked out of the play. Benson took the handoff and went around left end untouched into the end zone.

"I would say we disguised very well against Cincinnati except for the first touchdown drive in the fourth quarter," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark. "We kind of got locked into playing a two-minute type situation and showed a little bit. Sometimes they just ran plays into what we were doing and they made plays."

That won't get any easier Sunday against San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who leads the NFL with 991 yards passing.

The Steelers defeated the Chargers twice last season, including a playoff game at Heinz Field, sacked Rivers six times and recorded three interceptions.

But Rivers is playing as well as any quarterback in the league this season and doesn't seem to care what opposing defenses are throwing at him.

"He threw a touchdown against the Ravens into triple coverage and threw three balls against Miami into double coverage that were complete," said Clark. "This guy, he's on fire."

The Steelers hope they aren't the latest team to be burned.

"We have higher expectations for ourselves than what we've shown," Clark said.

Odds and end zones

Center Justin Hartwig (ankle), tight end David Johnson (ankle), running back Willie Parker (toe), safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and wide receiver Hines Ward (not injury related) did not practice Wednesday. ... The Steelers have beaten the Chargers six consecutive times in Pittsburgh.

10-02-2009, 05:49 AM
But Rivers is playing as well as any quarterback in the league this season and doesn't seem to care what opposing defenses are throwing at him.

That's exactly what he can get caught on. Overconfidence.:coffee:

10-03-2009, 11:42 AM
IMO we are losing a lot more than just the turnover battle.

10-04-2009, 09:41 AM
Turnover battle sure, Ben has made a few silly picks, but the offense IMO is doing their part giving the defense leads in the last few games hoping they would finish them off, but there are other problems that need addressed.