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mesaSteeler
10-31-2011, 11:04 PM
Steelers looking to maintain their physicality

By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Steelers were more aggressive in coverage and they exploited a secondary that, it turns out, has earned its No. 32 NFL ranking in pass defense.

Their 25-17 win against the New England gave them the top seed in the AFC playoffs if the postseason started in November. But in finally solving Tom Brady, their Rubik's Cube of quarterbacks, the Steelers didn't do anything that coach Mike Tomlin would call "mystical."

Execution and solid fundamentals provided the foundation for the Steelers' most impressive win of the season Sunday. Another element loomed large, too.

"Just fighting," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Fighting for 60 minutes."

The Steelers will need to do that and then some when the Ravens visit Heinz Field on Sunday night for a nationally televised game. And the defensive approach they took against the Patriots may not be the ideal course this weekend in a game that could be more like a sanctioned street fight.

The problem for the Steelers is they are better suited to using at least one extra defensive back, as they did in slowing down Brady.

That is how well their secondary is playing the Steelers are still No. 1 in the league in pass defense (171.9 passing yards allowed per game). It is also indicative of how injuries are mounting elsewhere.

The Steelers may have to mix-and-match again at linebacker, even if LaMarr Woodley is able to return from a hamstring injury that knocked him out of the Patriots' game.

Woodley playing against the Ravens is hardly a sure thing given how troublesome those kinds of injuries can be for players that rely on short, explosive bursts like the AFC leader in sacks.

So much, however, is riding on the Steelers' shutting down running back Ray Rice and playing a more physical brand of football than the Ravens.

A Steelers win would keep them a game up on the Ravens and would balance their earlier loss in Baltimore and eliminating a significant playoff tiebreaker.

The question the Steelers will have to answer this week is how they can put their best defensive personnel on the field Sunday night and still be physical enough to give the Ravens a little payback for what happened in Baltimore.

QUOTES

"To me, Heath is a lineman in the running game, and he is a wide receiver when he catches the ball. So if we can get him matched up on linebackers, we feel that is a win for us. He is Mr. Dependable. I get the ball close to him, and he makes the play." Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on tight end Heath Miller

"We have a good team. It isn't just the starters, it's good special teams, it's guys coming in and playing for guys that are nicked up and playing winning football. And you have to have that in order to move on in this league, because guys are going to get banged up." Defensive end Brett Keisel on the Steelers' depth

"I'd probably be the last one on this linebacker corps that they'd say 'Go play outside' because I know how hard it is, and he's doing a great job. We ain't lost since he's been starting, so that tells me how he's holding it down. His numbers may not show it, but on film, he's doing a great job. He's a true linebacker." Inside linebacker Larry Foote, on Lawrence Timmons filling in for the injured James Harrison at right outside linebacker

Digits

3 Teams with a worse completion percentage than the Ravens (53.8)

13 Consecutive regular-season games that Mike Wallace has had at least 70 receiving yards

27 Ranking of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in passer rating (75.4) heading into Monday's game

51 Steelers' third-down conversion rate, which ranked third in the NFL heading into Monday

4,328 Ben Roethlisberger's passing yards in 2009, the Steelers single-season record

4,604 Roethlisberger's pace for passing yards this season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Antonio Brown Steelers WR

Second-year man seems like he is close to breaking a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown. He is also coming into his own as a receiver and is second on the Steelers in catches (34) and receiving yards (431).

Ed Reed Ravens FS

Perennial All-Pro intercepted Ben Roethlisberger twice in the Ravens' 35-7 pasting of Steelers in the regular-season opener. The good news for Steelers and Roethlisberger: Reed hasn't had a pick since.

Terrell Suggs Ravens OLB

Speed rushers like Suggs typically give Max Starks problems. Suggs had three sacks against the Steelers on Sept. 11 and is coming off a 13-tackle, one-sack outing against Arizona.

THREE QUESTIONS with starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert

You met President Obama when your father was a Secret Service agent. Were you star struck?

"Not at all, because he's always asking my pops about me. It's always good to have a father knowing people that he knows. (Obama) always wishes me good luck, wishes the best for me. It's pretty cool."

What is the most difficult part of transitioning from college to the NFL?

"You see great players, great competition every week. We had great talent in the SEC, but every week you're not going to have a really good opponent across from you. The big thing is studying your opponent and (knowing) your opponent better than they know you. There's a lot more film work."

What it is like having three former Florida Gators, including yourself, start on the offensive line?

"(Laughing) Honestly, I think we need more. Those guys feel like older brothers; we stick together. I think (the offensive line) is the closest group out of anyone on the whole team. We fight for each other, especially for Max (Starks), since he's come back. Since he's come back, he's been working with me after practice, studying. These guys are really helping me transition."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

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tony hipchest
11-01-2011, 12:27 AM
"I'd probably be the last one on this linebacker corps that they'd say 'Go play outside' because I know how hard it is, and he's doing a great job. We ain't lost since he's been starting, so that tells me how he's holding it down. His numbers may not show it, but on film, he's doing a great job. He's a true linebacker." — Inside linebacker Larry Foote, on Lawrence Timmons filling in for the injured James Harrison at right outside linebacker


thats pretty high praise for timmons from the man whom he took the starting job from. with the lb corps being a mash unit, im glad we got a vet like foote to man the middle (despite any obvious physical shortcomings).

"(Laughing) Honestly, I think we need more. Those guys feel like older brothers; we stick together. I think (the offensive line) is the closest group out of anyone on the whole team. We fight for each other, especially for Max (Starks), since he's come back. Since he's come back, he's been working with me after practice, studying. These guys are really helping me transition."


its not max's job to mentor and coach the rookie drafted to replace him, especially for nothing more than the vet minimum. while i always acknowledged him as adecent player, i always questioned his heart. i dont any more as i think he has proven he is in it for the right reasons.

the difference he has made to our line is like night and day since he returned.

Curtain_of_Steel
11-01-2011, 09:05 AM
I think Max will help him, but I also think Max may now be back next year. Gilbert can work his way into a rotation or depth or another spot on the line. Lgursky doesn't belong there, we have plenty rooom for another big guy.