http://sports.aol.com/fanhouse/2007/...steelers-back/Did Cowher Hold Steelers Back?
Posted Sep 20th 2007 7:25AM by JJ Cooper
Filed under: Steelers
, AFC North
Bill Cowher was respected by his team, but now that he's gone, the players don't seem to be missing him too much. In fact, you're hearing a lot of players spout off about how the new coaching staff has freed up the Steelers to reach the best of their ability.
First it was the special teams players saying that the Steelers have fixed their problems because there is a more focused approach to special teams now that Cowher has been replaced by Mike Tomlin. Now a lot of the defense's stars are saying that their domination in the first two games is because Cowher's no longer around to put the handcuffs on Dick LeBeau, as Ed Bouchette explains in today's Post-Gazette
Players and coaches, on and off the record, say LeBeau has the freedom to call what he wants, when he wants under Tomlin, a freedom he did not previously have under Cowher. "I do, I do," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "I think he's getting to call whatever he wants, and the call is sticking."
While Cowher may have been respected by his players, the defense loves LeBeau, and it's also clear that they believe he's a defensive genius who will stay a step ahead of opposing offensive coordinators. We won't know how much of a help unshackling LeBeau will be until the Steelers have faced some tougher offenses, but in the first two games, LeBeau has had the ability to throw out a little of everything. Given that chance he's been quite aggressive. Pittsburgh sent five or more pass rushers on 17 of the 31 Bills called pass plays last week, with a variety of linebacker and defensive back blitzes.
What's also apparent in the first two games is that the Steelers are playing more players on defense. In the past the backup defensive linemen would spell the starters for a few snaps each quarter, but this year they've subbed the entire defensive line for series at a time with no real dropoff. Anthony Smith and Ryan Clark are splitting time at safety and LaMarr Woodley is getting playing time as a backup outside linebacker. In addition to keeping people fresh, it also should help the Steelers depth in case of injury, as Woodley, Smith, Chris Hoke, Nick Eason and Travis Kirschke are playing enough to be ready to simply step in if someone goes down.