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Old 09-09-2006, 08:50 AM   #1
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Default Defense Quick to Pounce

Defense quick to pounce

By Mike Prisuta
Saturday, September 9, 2006

Charlie Batch was the quarterback under pressure in the 2006 NFL regular-season opener Thursday night, but Daunte Culpepper was the one under siege.

The Steelers' defense saw to that.

"We wanted to take away the run and make Culpepper beat us," linebacker Joey Porter said. "That's our game plan for any guy we're playing. We don't care how good the quarterback is. We feel that our pressure, when we pressure people, we can make any quarterback frustrated."

The Steelers also frustrated Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, limiting him to 30 yards on 15 attempts.

Brown managed two rushing TDs, but Miami averaged just 2.1 yards on 18 rushes as a team.

Culpepper also paid the price. He was sacked three times in the Steelers' 28-17 victory, the same number of sacks Miami managed against Batch, who was starting in place of Ben Roethlisberger (appendectomy).

The difference? When Culpepper wasn't being sacked, he was being pressured into mistakes. He completed 18-of-27 passes for 262 yards but also threw two costly interceptions.

Both came after the Steelers had taken a 21-17 lead on an 87-yard TD pass from Batch to tight end Heath Miller. The second Culpepper interception was returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Porter.

"We blitzed pretty much the whole game," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "At the beginning of the game, he kind of didn't know where we were coming from, what we were doing. Toward the middle of the game, we seemed to kind of ease off a little bit, and then at the end it was all blitz again. That's our strength."

The Steelers didn't blitz Culpepper on every snap. It just seemed that way.

"We sent it a lot of times," cornerback Deshea Townsend said. "There's no need to sit back and wait on them to make something happen. Let's force the issue. That's pretty much what we did."

It was as good an indoctrination to the Steelers' way of doing things as any for new free safety Ryan Clark, who left the Washington Redskins to replace Chris Hope.

"We bring it," Clark said. "We bring it. That's what we do. It's crazy -- we get upset when we're not coming (with a blitz), when we sit back. That's not how we like to play. Coach (Dick LeBeau, the Steelers' defensive coordinator) kept sending us, and that's because he has confidence in our defense."

When the Steelers weren't blitzing, they were trying to confuse Culpepper by disguising their coverages.

"He threw some grounders out there," said Porter, who had two of the Steelers' three sacks. "We made him throw the ball in the dirt."

Once the Steelers regained the lead with 6:11 remaining, they stalked Culpepper relentlessly.

"That's when it gets really fun," Townsend said.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu had one interception and almost another. Cornerback Ike Taylor had one off-target Culpepper pass in his hands in the end zone, but he couldn't hang on.

"You always take a chance in blitzes, but that's our formula," Polamalu said. "And we have good enough DBs that hold up long enough for those guys to get sacks.

"That's the way we win games, on defense, and that's what we'll continue to do."

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