View Full Version : Collier: Steelers' defense shows it's postseason worthy

12-28-2009, 07:16 AM
Collier: Steelers' defense shows it's postseason worthy
Disruptive performances by Woodley, rookie Hood prove cathartic
Monday, December 28, 2009
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

No one can say this continually perilous Steelers season isn't thick with handy visual references.

Who needs a game clock, for example, when you know the fourth quarter has begun because there is a visiting white shirt floating free in the end zone, the readily identifiable key that means if the Steelers are ahead or tied, they won't be for long.

So there was Derrick Mason, the familiar Baltimore bullet, ready to catch Joe Flacco's 21-yard scoring strike and snap the 20-20 tie in another come-from-ahead Steelers pratfall, when, on the first play of the fourth quarter, the ball hit him on the facemask and slipped between his mitts incomplete.

I guess having a nose for the football isn't always a good thing.

And then of course, the world turned upside down.

The Steelers, outscored, 121-88, in 14 fourth quarters to that point, including epic defensive collapses in which they allowed 22 points to Green Bay, 21 to Oakland, 21 to San Diego, 14 to the Cincinnati and 10 to Chicago, instead allowed only 26 yards on 12 plays that comprised Baltimore's three fourth-quarter possessions.

Waiting for splash plays from his defense since somewhere on the other side of Thanksgiving, Mike Tomlin watched cannonball after cannonball yesterday. Dick LeBeau's defense got as many turnovers (3) as it had in the previous six games, and LaMarr Woodley got as many sacks on two plays as the defense had in the previous two games.

Of seven Ravens pass plays in the fourth quarter, three resulted in sacks, three fell incomplete, and one gained just 8 yards.

"It's huge," said beleaguered linebacker James Farrior, who got the Steelers' first interception since Nov. 9 and cued up a 23-20 victory in the 2009 home finale. "It just gives everybody a lot of confidence going to Miami and hopefully some other teams can get the job done when they need to, and we'll get into this dance."

Playoffs? The Steelers are still lined up on some dark sidewalk, waiting for some officious bruiser to unhook a velvet rope. Or something. But they can at least produce evidence of a defense, thought to be a requirement for postseason partying.

You wouldn't have chosen a day when the defense got slashed by the first 100-yard rushing performance by an opponent in 37 games (Ray Rice gained 141 yards on 30 carries) as the occasion of its return to confidence and even competence, but stunningly disruptive performances by Woodley and rookie Ziggy Hood were nothing less than cathartic.

"Seems like in all of our losses we've given up a lot of points in the fourth quarter, so going down to Miami after something like this means a lot," said Woodley, who had 10 tackles, two sacks, two hurries, a forced fumble, a pass defended, and, I think, an inside the park home run at one point. "The defense finally got a turnover [three actually]. James Farrior played an excellent game. James Harrison played an excellent game even though he was hurt. Ziggy did a good job. Ike Taylor got a sack, and I cost him another one jumping offside."

For all that, it was Woodley's little burst of hand-to-hand with backup Baltimore tackle Oniel Cousins that was as critical moment in the Steelers' eighth win as any. Cousins was playing right tackle for Michael Oher (still a major motion picture), who was flipped to left tackle when Jared Gaither couldn't start. Cousins had just ridden Woodley away from Flacco on a fourth-quarter incompletion when he inexplicably knocked Woodley to the lawn after the whistle.

"I thought the play was still going on," Cousins said. "I was just trying to finish."


"He already had grabbed my facemask while I was rushing," Woodley said. "The play was over, I turned around, and he blasted me in the face. I thought well, 'I'm just going to take one for the team right here.' "

Goodbye go-ahead field goal (at the minimum), hello third-and-30 at the 41. Hood pressured Flacco into an incompletion on that play, and the Ravens never got closer than the 35 thereafter.

"I know that sometimes when you lose you look for deeper reasons why, but, every week, I come up here and tell you, it's a play here or a play here," said Tomlin. "You've got to make significant plays at significant times. When we lost, it's because we haven't. When we've won, it's because we have. We had that same football team at fourth-and-5 in Baltimore with a chance to end that game in regulation [they lost in overtime], and Ray Rice beat us inside and had a 50- or 40-yard play. We had a similar situation out there today and we made the necessary play."

They actually made it three times over.

Hood's sack on third-and-9 set an offense under the direction of a highly erratic Ben Roethlisberger up for a shot at the winning field goal.

Woodley's sack on third-and-7 from the Steelers' 35 made it fourth-and-10.

And it was Woodley who slammed into Flacco again on the next play, causing a fumble that pinballed off another Raven's helmet and into the alert grasp of Hood.

"I just felt like all the preparation paid off today," said Hood, who saw extended duty after Brett Keisel left with a stinger. "Extra study this time. I'd played against them before and I thought I knew what would be effective. It's like coach Tomlin says, 'the standard is the standard.' "

It was time the defense finally played to it.
Gene Collier can be reached at gcollier@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09362/1024078-150.stm#ixzz0az8O9dV3

Men of Steel
12-28-2009, 10:20 AM
ziggy looked reaaaal impressive. he was a playmaker. and made the big play when he had to. my hats off to that kid. he will be great for us in the years to come.

o yea... and that other guy woodley, hes good too. :chuckle:

12-28-2009, 11:40 AM
Steelers' defense shows it's postseason worthy

No, not really. One long run for a Ravens TD was called back on a penalty and another TD was very uncharacteristically dropped by Mason. On top of that, they allowed Rice to gain almost 150 yards on the ground. They made a couple of nice plays but overall, they did their best "Swiss cheese" impression again.

12-28-2009, 12:56 PM
Really though, what defense HAS looked impressive this season? The colts defense? The chargers defense? The pats defense? They've all looked suspect, and all have major flaws. I've watched countless games this season and the only defense that has truely impressed me is our defense with Troy in the lineup, especially in the Broncos game and before Troy got hurt in that first titans game. The only other defense that comes close is Philly's, and they've had a lot of iffy games, and their major flaw is their predictability.. they seem to blitz 75% of the time or more.

12-28-2009, 01:37 PM
Sorry but even after yesterday's performance this defense does not look post season worthy. It's not even regular season worthy.

12-28-2009, 02:08 PM
Give me a break! The defense lucked out, that few minute span from the end of the 3rd to the beginning of the 4th was the biggest implosion I've ever seen. After watching them gain 10 points in the 3rd and expecting a typically weak fourth quarter performance from our D, I literally sat there in awe as Foxworth had his pick 6 called back for block in the back, Mcgahee had his TD called back for holding, Mason dropped a sure touch down (horrible coverage), TWO flags on one play (one being holding), and the incomprehensible personal foul by Cousins to take them out of FG range. Cousins was awful in general, especially after he was taken out and put back in. Almost made me feel bad for Flacco, never had a chance. On the flip side, our O line played ok. At least Ben didn't get clobbered in the middle of throws.