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mesaSteeler
10-31-2011, 06:19 AM
Steelers DBs had it covered
http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/sports/mike_bires/
Posted: Sunday, October 30, 2011 10:48 pm | Updated: 11:00 pm, Sun Oct 30, 2011.

By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com | 0 comments

PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps the most telling image of the Steelers' failure to win Super Bowl XLV was a secondary that was ripped to shreds. It wasn't pretty.

You may remember Green Bay's Jordy Nelson burning defensive backs to a tune of nine catches, 140 yards and a touchdown. You may remember Greg Jennings shaking free for two TD catches.

"You can look at any loss we've had and blame it on the secondary," Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said.

Polamalu made that observation Sunday just as the Steelers reached the halfway point of their season. Like last year when they finished regular-season play at 12-4, the Steelers are 6-2 after eight games. But unlike last year when their secondary was the weakest link of the defense, it's the strength this year.

For the most part, the DBs have played very well. On Sunday in a 25-17 win over Tom Brady and the Patriots, they played great.

While it's true that the Steelers' offensive performance was a factor in keeping Brady and his high-powered offense off the field, the defensive effort was just as significant.

On the Steelers' first possession, they drove 68 yards on 11 plays and scored a touchdown. On the Patriots' first possession, they went three downs and out.

Ben Roethlisberger converted on three third-down situations on the Steelers' first possession. Brady failed to convert on third down on the Patriots' first drive. His third-and-3 throw to wide receiver Deion Branch was successfully defended by cornerback William Gay.

If the Steelers' offense set the tone early, so did the defense ... especially the secondary that for most of the game consisted of six defensive backs in dime and quarter-sub packages.

Check Brady's stats in the box score. His 198 passing yards are a season low. He came to Pittsburgh averaging 360.5 per game.

Look at the job cornerback Ike Taylor did on Wes Welker. The Patriots' star wide receiver came to Pittsburgh leading the NFL in receptions (51) and receiving yards per game (130.8). With Taylor hounding him most of the game, Welker was a non-factor with six catches for just 39 yards.

At this stage of the season, Taylor looks like he'll get that Pro Bowl invite that's eluded him over the first eight years of his career.

"What can we say about the job Ike does?" free safety Ryan Clark said. "Week in and week out, he takes the best guy on the other team and basically erases him."

"Erases" is a fairly accurate description of what the Steelers did to the Patriots' offense, which came to Pittsburgh ranked first in the NFL in total yards and passing yards.

The 17 points the Patriots scored as a season low.

No doubt, linebacker LaMarr Woodley was huge with two sacks before leaving in the third quarter when he tweaked his hamstring. Defensive end Brett Keisel also played well, deflecting a Brady pass in the third quarter and then sacking Brady and forcing a fumble that resulted in a safety with eight seconds left to play.

But more than anything, it was the Steelers' secondary that was the difference.

Combined, Welker and Branch only caught 10 passes for 65 yards. Tight end Ron Gronkowski caught seven passes for 94 yards. But he only had one TD. Last year he had three when the Pats won in Pittsburgh. Aaron Hernandez, the Pats' other tight end, only caught two passes for 9 yards.

"They played more man-to-man than they've showed all year," Brady said of the Steelers' secondary. "The way you beat man is you make plays against it."

On this day, the Patriots didn't make the plays they normally do. They were denied by a group of DBs playing as well as any in the league right now.

steelfury02
10-31-2011, 08:46 AM
Yup - but I'm going on record that even if we find ourselves playing them again come playoffs - we'll beat them again - we've gotten over the hump and I actually think we'll be ticked off again, looking to beat them by even more - heck, that is if the other team standing in their way doesn't knock them off first. I'm not sure I'd even call them the 2nd best in the AFC right now - I might have to give that to the Bills! Ravens always have an answer or play them close so who knows!