Re: What's next for the Steelers?
I absolutely agree that we need to improve in our secondary, particularly at cornerback. But the article stops short of addressing one other key point which is linebackers who can drop into coverage.
The teams we've had the most trouble with are all teams that run a West Coast style of offense whose stock-in-trade is the quick release pass and that was brought to light in the SB by the fact that we never really got to Rodgers before he got rid of the ball.
The most obvious reason why a West Coast works against us is poor play at the corners but the less obvious reason is that we don't have linebackers who can really cover the deep middle. Our whole defensive scheme is based on aggression -- the zone blitz -- and being able to either get to the QB or at least blow up plays. But with a West Coast offense, there simply isn't time to do all of that and we consistently get beaten over the middle to deep-middle because Harrison, Woodley and Timmons and Farrior are not built to present adequate coverage in that area.
We've depended on Troy and Clark to help fill that gap, but in 4 and 5 receiver sets, we don't have enough bodies to adequately cover the middle, which is partially due to poor corners needing help but mostly due to the fact that our linebackers aren't quick enough for anything other than zone coverage.
This is why I take issue with LeBeau paying too much attention to the Front Seven and his adherence to an aggressive, blitz-oriented style. In LeBeau's present style, the secondary seems to exist to help the front seven in blitz packages while the reality is that in today's more pass-oriented game, it should be the other way around.
Having a powerful front seven is great as long as we can get into the offense's backfield in time to make a difference. But if it takes us three seconds to get there and the ball is gone in two seconds, what good is it? With more agile linebackers (built more like Troy than Harrison, for example), we'd have a little less in the bulk department but a lot more in the agility and speed department which would allow us to become more aggressive in coverage -- man-to-man instead of just dropping into zones and I believe that would do more good for us overall than all of the "Front Seven Toughness" we seem to be in love with now.
Like I've said before, LeBeau is a great coach, but he favors the front seven at the expense of the back four but he also doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that the league is changing and that the West Coast style is not only here to stay but is becoming very sophisticated and the old "Three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" days are over.