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10-31-2011, 03:48 PM
Young players help a proud unit play on
Defense throttles Patriots after week of 'Brady talk'
Monday, October 31, 2011
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Steelers linebacker Larry Foote played college ball with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. They remain friendly. Once a Michigan brother, always a Michigan brother.

But even Foote had his fill of Brady talk in the days leading up to the game Sunday.

"It was Brady this and Brady that," he said. "They kept showing his record against us and his stats against us. It [ticks] you off. I was always reaching for the remote control real fast to change the channel."

I'm guessing Foote wasn't quite so quick with the clicker Sunday night.

I'm thinking he watched highlights of the Steelers' 25-17 win against the Patriots well into the morning.

There was so much to like about this Steelers performance.

"We're just playing good football right now," defensive end Brett Keisel said, simply.

All of the defensive players raved about the offense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 365 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Rashard Mendenhall averaged 5.4 yards on his 13 carries. The offense converted 10-of-16 third downs. It added up to a 78-to-50 edge in plays and a 39:22-to-20:38 edge in possession time.

[B]"All that Brady talk, but they forgot about our offense and our quarterback," Foote said.

"Brady can't hurt us when he's not on the field," Foote added.

All of that is true. But don't be fooled. The defense played a terrific game against the great Brady-led offense, which had scored 30 or more points in 13 of its past 14 regular-season games. It did it without injured captain James Farrior, whose regular-season streak of starts ended at 93 because of a torn calf injury. It did it without injured All-Pro outside linebacker James Harrison (fractured orbital bone). And it did it for the final 1 1/2 quarters without Pro Bowl linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who limped off with what, almost certainly, is a serious hamstring injury.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau has had to shuffle linebackers nearly as much as the team has shuffled offensive linemen. It started when Harrison went out in the Houston game Oct. 2. Foote moved into the starting lineup the next week at inside linebacker, bumping Lawrence Timmons to outside linebacker. When Farrior couldn't play against the Patriots, Foote moved to his inside spot and was replaced by second-year pro Stevenson Sylvester in the base defense. When Woodley left, rookie Chris Carter had to take his spot.

"Those guys not only buy into what we talk about in terms of the standard being the standard, but they make it reality," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Carter, Sylvester and rookie cornerback Cortez Allen, who got plenty of snaps. "It wasn't too big for them. They aren't playing with fear."

Their older teammates appreciated the contributions.

"That's what good teams do," Keisel said.

"That's how you become a great team."

The Steelers sacked Brady three times, the first two by Woodley, who was on his way to another monster game, the final one by Keisel, which led to a Brady fumble and a safety for the Steelers.

But as nice as the pressure was, the coverage in the secondary played an even bigger part in the win. Patriots wideout Wes Welker -- the NFL's leading receiver -- often went against cornerback Ike Taylor and had just six catches for 39 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski had nine catches for 94 yards but didn't find the end zone after having three touchdown catches in the Patriots' 39-26 win here last season.

The Steelers got pretty tired of hearing about Welker and Gronkowski last week, too.

"I think we definitely had the best tight end on the field today," Foote said with a big grin of teammate Heath Miller, who had seven catches for 85 yards.

Brady wound up throwing for a very human-like 198 yards.

"I think they played more [man-to-man] coverage than they've showed all year," he said.

Said Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton, "Our guys did an unbelievable job in coverage. You didn't see any of their guys run free. Even when we didn't get pressure on Brady, he was back there patting the ball because the coverage was so good."

Added Tomlin, "We talked about how that group was going to be tested. They were tested tonight and they passed the test."

Another is coming Sunday.

"It's Baltimore week," Tomlin said, in case anyone has forgotten.

The Ravens, who beat the Steelers, 35-7, in the opening game, are coming to Heinz Field with first place at stake in the AFC North Division. There's a good chance the Steelers will have to play without Harrison, Farrior and Woodley.

"The [young guys] better keep coming because there is no end in sight with some of the things we're dealing with," Tomlin said. "So be it. What's expected of us is not going to change."

As Keisel put it, "We're 6-2 at the halfway point. We're happy where we are ...

"Now it's onward and upward."

Fire Arians
10-31-2011, 05:07 PM
welcome back mesa :)

i liked our chances this year better than last, mainly because of the solid play of keenan lewis and cortez allen. this is not the same steelers secondary we've seen since 2009 (and thankfully so)