View Full Version : On The Steelers: Defense get second chance vs. Jets

01-19-2011, 06:12 AM
On The Steelers: Defense get second chance vs. Jets
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Back in the week before Christmas, the Steelers special teams allowed a 97-yard kickoff return and their offense gave up a safety that, combined, made a difference in their 22-17 loss to the New York Jets in Heinz Field.

But the NFL's No. 1 defense in points allowed, sacks and yards per play did little to stem the tide.

The Jets ran for 106 yards, most against the Steelers all season. The Jets did not have a turnover against a defense that caused the second-most turnovers in the league. And Mark Sanchez was sacked just once for no yards lost against a defense that led the NFL with 48.

That defense also allowed a 17-10 third-quarter lead to slip away by allowing a 66-yard, eight-play drive end when Sanchez snookered them and pranced into the end zone with no one near him for a 7-yard bootleg for a touchdown that tied it, then gave up the winning field goal after a 13-play, 50-yard drive by the Jets in the fourth quarter.

The Steelers defense this season has played as well as any over the past 10 years, but not Dec. 19.

The New York Jets "whacked us," coach Mike Tomlin said as his Steelers prepare to play them again Sunday at Heinz Field for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

"They beat us at our place. We're going to have to play better than what we did the last time."

Mark Sanchez, who compiled a poor, 75.3 passer rating this season, was sacked 27 times and threw 13 interceptions. So, some teams must have figured a way to get to him, even if the Steelers did not.

Tomlin credited the play-calling of Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for what did not happen to Sanchez when he last visited Heinz Field.

"Rushing the quarterback is always an important element in the game, but it's also something we don't have a great deal of control of," Tomlin said "The play-caller's play selection has a certain level of control over the amount of opportunities that you have to get to him.

"So, I'm not going to act like that is the linchpin to this football game. If they're throwing the ball a bunch, if he's dropping back and he's throwing the ball vertically down the field, we'd better be getting to him. If he's not, then it's less of an issue."

Sanchez threw 29 times that day and dropped back on a 30th, counting James Farrior's sack/tackle at the line of scrimmage. The Jets ran 27 times.

The only other time the Steelers were held without a turnover and with one sack or fewer in a game was their worst loss of the season, to New England at home, 39-26.

Clearly, the defense must force some errors Sunday, whether they are sacks or turnovers. But maybe, as Tomlin indicated, it will not be up to the Steelers, it will depend on the offensive coordinator of the New York Jets.

"I think it was coach Schottenheimer more than anything else,: Tomlin said of Sanchez's ability to avoid the pass rush Dec. 19. "He moved the pocket, he booted him, he had some quick game, and then he took his shots or spots when he was throwing the ball vertically.

"But it wasn't anything special that he did in response to playing the Pittsburgh Steeler defense. It's what they quite frankly do every weekend. It's what they did in New England. It's what they did in Indy."

Someone delivered those 171 yards lost on sacks, and those 13 interceptions of Sanchez in 2010, but the Steelers defense wasn't among them.
Smith will practice

Defensive end Aaron Smith, who has not practiced since his triceps were torn Oct. 24 in Miami, will return to practice this week for the Steelers, Tomlin said.

"Aaron Smith is going to practice this week. We'll see where that practice participation takes us."

The coach made no promises, and it remains unlikely that Smith will play against the Jets. No matter what, Ziggy Hood will remain the starter on the left side.

"A snap count is probably going to be a part of that discussion if he's deemed well enough to go, and that's going to be a limited number of snaps," Tomlin said of Smith. "The guys that have replaced him, like Ziggy Hood, have more than met the standard. They deserve to continue to play, but it'd be nice to add that tool to the toolbox."

Other than that, Tomlin said, "We're in great shape" on the status of his injured players.

Those most seriously injured are special teams player Will Allen (knee sprain) and starting cornerback Bryant McFadden (abdominal strain). Tomlin said both players will be limited in practice this week.

As for good news on players who had to leave the game Sunday, Tomlin said his two tackles, Jonathan Scott and Flozell Adams, are both OK and will be ready to go. Troy Polamalu, as part of the routine since he came down with an Achilles-related injury in November, will not practice until Friday.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com.

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