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Old 10-11-2007, 02:39 PM   #1
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Default Best Steelers Defense Ever!

This article is from Oct. 11, 2007 The Sports Xchange posted on CBSSportsline

The best Steelers defense ever?

Pittsburgh has fielded some great defenses through the years, including the Steel Curtain of the 1970s and Blitzburgh of the mid-1990s. But none of those was able to accomplish what the 2007 version has done through five games.

The Steelers have yielded only 47 points, the fewest any Pittsburgh team has allowed in the first five games in the past 70 years. They have to go all the way back to 1937, when scoring did not occur nearly as often, to find a Steelers team that allowed fewer -- 38 in the first five games that season.

In addition, a punt was returned for a touchdown that's included in those 47 points.

No one's ready to compare them to the Steel Curtain defense that produced four Pro Football Hall of Famers, but the current Steelers defense is strong in every area. It even recorded its first shutout in Heinz Field last Sunday without its two Pro Bowl players, injured nose tackle Casey Hampton and strong safety Troy Polamalu.

Seattle came in with what was considered a good, balanced offense and left with a 21-0 loss, coach Mike Holmgren's second shutout in his 16 years as a head coach in the NFL.

Dick LeBeau remained the coordinator under new coach Mike Tomlin, even though they've run different systems in the past. LeBeau likes the 3-4 blitzing defense and fathered the zone blitz. Tomlin grew up with the Tampa Cover 2 in a 4-3 defense.

Tomlin lets LeBeau run the show, although he's had plenty of input and some of it showed against Seattle, when the Steelers stayed with a three-man rush for most of the game with a Cover-2 scheme in the secondary.

They've also introduced a four-man line in passing schemes, removing their outside linebackers and going with four true down linemen, with end Brett Keisel normally standing up. They go to that in passing situations when they think the offense might run. That was the case last week with Shaun Alexander in Seattle's backfield.

Neither do they find it surprising that they would record their first home shutout since Heinz Field opened in 2001 with Polamalu and Hampton out of the lineup with injuries. Veteran Chris Hoke has performed well for Hampton in the past, including 2004 when the Steelers went 15-1 with Hampton out for half the season.

To replace Polamalu, they shifted Ryan Clark to strong safety, a position he played for the Washington Redskins before he signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent last year. Second-year man Anthony Smith started at free safety.

"Coach Tomlin always says everybody's a playmaker out there on the field; you just have to do your job," said linebacker Clark Haggans, who has thrived in the defense this season. "We just try to do it as a team -- if Casey or Troy isn't playing, try to play team defense."

No one's doing it better. The Steelers rank first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (235.6 per game), fewest points (9.4), fewest yards per play (4.2), and tied for most sacks (17).

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