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Old 11-04-2008, 06:20 AM   #1
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Default Defense ruled the game for Steelers

Defense ruled the game for Steelers
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

LANDOVER, Md. -- Last night's third Steelers foray into the foreboding NFC East went pretty much as indicated, meaning it was simply going to be a matter of what level of offensive ineptitude would be necessary to waste another positively sterling performance by football's best defense.

By the time Ben Roethlisberger went to the sideline with a recurrence of his shoulder issue and was joined there by tight end Heath Miller and his newly yelping ankle, it wasn't even clear whether the Steelers' "attack" was better with or without them.

For the moment, try without.

At halftime, the team that went 1 for 10 on third down just eight days ago, had rallied to improve those figures to 3-for-their-last-19.

That was the very kind of squeamishness that figured to ignite a storm of trouble against the Washington Redskins, who were not only averaging 364 yards of offense per game, but also were one of only four teams in the league to be ranked among the top 10 in both offense and defense. Every one of those teams was in the NFC East, against which the Steelers had appeared by all evidence overmatched.

They'd scored all of six points in Philadelphia, where Roethlisberger had been thrown to the ground eight times, and lost handily. They managed 14 against the New York Giants at home, with Roethlisberger getting sacked five more times, and lost in the final minutes.

Still Mike Tomlin tried to get the ball into Ben's hands as soon as physically possible for this Washington summit, even to the extent that the Steelers would open the show with an onside kick that bounced easily into the clutches of Redskins special-teamer Alfred Fincher, putting the Steelers on the defensive instantly.

Which was the good news.

On defense, the Steelers ruled the night.

"That [onside kick] call is on me, but ours is a defense that allows you to be aggressive," Tomlin said after the Steelers hit the halfway point 6-2. "I just wanted to let [Washington] know that we were comin' and that we were comin' to win."

Punctured for field goals on Washington's first two possessions, Dick LeBeau's top-rated defense left no misunderstanding as to why that was. Clinton Portis had to settle for 51 yards on 13 carries. The Redskins, who had but 66 yards a half, finished 143 yards short of their average.

From the moment Ike Taylor slammed into Portis on third-and-2 on Washington's first possession, dropping him short of the sticks, the Redskins operated with a skittishness most other defenses have not imposed on them.

Portis came into this prime-time appointment with five consecutive 100-yard performances on his dossier, some of which had come against the very defenses that make Washington's division what it is -- 121 yards against Dallas, 145 against Philadelphia. Of course, those defenses aren't this defense, the Steelers' version that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, the Steelers' version that has allowed only three such occurrences in the previous 74 games.

"The main thing was that they had a great running game, but we stop the run," said emergency safety Tyrone Carter. "Every time we step on the field, we feel we're the best. This defense is very tight; we have great camaraderie, brotherhood. We just have to bring our 'A' game every night."

Despite cracking a stretch play for 22 yards to become the first runner this season with a 20-yard gain against the Steelers, Portis' primary contribution last night was inadvertently negative -- he tipped Jason Campbell's swing pass into the left flat into the mitts of Steelers corner Deshea Townsend, snapping Campbell's incredible string of 271 consecutive passes without an interception. The Redskins, in fact, had not seen a pass picked off in 12 games dating to 2007, a record streak of throws totaling 379.

"You've got to give their defense credit," Campbell said after a two-pick night. "They put a lot of pressure on us in a lot of different ways. Pittsburgh gave us a lot of different looks, something out of the ordinary."

Campbell was coming off a 23-for-28 performance against the Lions that netted 328 yards and boosted him into the NFL's top five rated passers.

But again, this wasn't the Lions.

If any stats were going to be padded on this night, they'd be by James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and the rest of the Steelers' pass rush. James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Nick Eason joined that party. The Steelers had six sacks by the middle of the final period, two more than any Washington opponent this season. Lawrence Timmons added a seventh in the final minutes. To the extent that any of those were coverage sacks, credit was due to an exceedingly active secondary working without starting safety Ryan Clark. Carter started in his place, but Anthony Smith saw his first significant playing time of the season in that spot as well.

"I feel like we've got an opportunity to be pretty good," said Captain Farrior, whose total performance was just flat brilliant. "None of that stuff about being the top-rated defense really matters if you don't get a win. That's always what we're playing for, to get a win."

When the Redskins finally assembled the threat of a touchdown, midway through the fourth quarter, it was Farrior who lunged in front of Campbell's roll out pass to eligible tackle Lorenzo Alexander, slapping it away in the back of the end zone to preserve the 23-6 lead that had been erected principally under the direction of backup quarterback Byron Leftwich, the new mayor of Pittsburgh.

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Old 11-04-2008, 06:29 AM   #2
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Default Steelers defense keys win over Redskins

Steelers defense keys win over Redskins
By Scott Brown
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Steelers took a big step toward solving the NFC East thanks in large part to a unit that continues to look like a championship-caliber one.

Unrelenting defense and a key special-teams play allowed the Steelers to overcome the loss of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and their early offensive struggles Monday night at FedEx Field.

As a result of their 23-6 win over the Washington Redskins, the Steelers (6-2) stayed a game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens (5-3) in the AFC North. More importantly, they may have proved something to themselves by winning on the road against a quality opponent for the first time this season -- and overcoming some adversity to do it.

"Guys showed some resiliency and played 60 minutes of football," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

In what has become a recurring theme, the Steelers got valuable contributions from unsung players.

With Roethlisberger sidelined by a bad right shoulder -- Tomlin said he might have been able to go back into the game had the Steelers really needed him -- Byron Leftwich calmly led the offense on a pair of long touchdown drives in the second half.

The Washington D.C. native made his homecoming a happy one as he completed 7 of 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.

His 50-yard pass to Nate Washington set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Willie Parker early in the third quarter. Parker's first scoring run since the initial game of the season gave the Steelers a double-digit lead.

The lead may have seemed like a triple-digit one to the Redskins given how suffocating the Steelers' defense proved to be in the nationally televised game.

While Roethlisberger got knocked out of the Steelers' first win in three attempts against an NFC East team, it came as a mild surprise that Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell made it to the finish.

The Steelers sacked him seven times, and their pressure forced Campbell to throw his first interceptions of the season.

The first came with four minutes left in the third quarter after Campbell had moved the Redskins into Steelers territory. Cornerback Deshea Townsend's first interception of the season halted the drive. The second interception, by Tyrone Carter, came in the waning seconds of the game.

"We rushed the quarterback well, tackled well and did not give up the big play," Townsend said. "When we do that we'll often come out on the good end."

The Steelers don't get much time to savor the victory as the Indianapolis Colts visit them at Heinz Field Sunday for a 4:15 p.m. game.

Coach Mike Tomlin had to be happy his team only trailed 6-0 at the end of the first quarter considering that the almost all of the first 15 minutes of the game were spent in Steelers' territory.

A defense that is arguably the best in the NFL limited the Redskins to a pair of field goals after Washington started its first two possessions at the Steelers' 36- and 30-yard line, respectively following a failed onside kick attempt and an interception.

The Steelers got off to such an uninspiring start offensively that it looked like the early Shaun Suisham scores might be enough for the Redskins to win.

The Steelers managed just one first down in the opening quarter and Roethlisberger completed just three of his first 15 passes.

Special teams provided a badly needed spark for the Steelers late in the second quarter.

With the Redskins leading 6-3, Andre Frazier blocked a punt that William Gay scooped up and returned to Washington's 13.

The Steelers' first blocked punt since 2006 set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Roethlisberger with 30 seconds left in the second quarter.

The only touchdown in the first half allowed the Steelers to take a lead into intermission even though they could have easily been trailing the Redskins by double digits at halftime.

The Steelers added to their lead early in the third quarter, and the job Leftwich did in relief of Roethlisberger plus the fact that their defense offered no such relief to Campbell carried the Steelers to a much-needed victory.

"They were physical and got to our quarterback," Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels said. "We didn't do a good job of protecting him."

Notes: Tomlin will give an update on Roethlisberger today at his weekly news conference. Heath Miller also left Monday night's game with an injury, but Tomlin said X-rays confirmed that the fourth-year tight end does not have a broken ankle . ... Inside linebacker James Farrior, on the personal foul penalty he got for making helmet-to-helmet contact with Campbell, "It was a football play and I hit the guy in the face. I didn't mean to do it. It was an unfortunate call and I'm glad we got out of that situation without giving up the touchdown."... Tomlin said he made the decision to try an onside kick at the beginning of the game. He said his trust in the Steelers' defense was a big reason why he took a risk. "I wanted to have an opportunity to let these guys know that we were coming and coming to win," Tomlin said.

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Old 11-04-2008, 07:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: Defense ruled the game for Steelers

Do the Redskins have the worst OL in the league or Is the defense finally plying at full speed? I hope they keep it up. We're going to need them in the next few weeks.

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Old 11-04-2008, 08:31 AM   #4
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Default Re: Defense ruled the game for Steelers

I got goosebumps last night with how well our defense was playing.

Defense wins championships!!
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Old 11-04-2008, 08:38 AM   #5
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Default Re: Defense ruled the game for Steelers

Defense played great last night! they are carrying our our O right now!

Can't wait till we face the Brownies and newly appointed Quinn! Sorry, got side tracked.
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Old 11-04-2008, 09:19 AM   #6
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Default Re: Defense ruled the game for Steelers

I love this defense. This defense is always in attack mode, I freaking love it.

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Old 11-04-2008, 09:28 AM   #7
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Default Re: Defense ruled the game for Steelers

I just loved how when it was 23-6 with like 5 minutes left, Labeau was sending corner blitzes and the such. No mercy.

Of course, in the final 2 minutes he let up, but still.
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Old 11-04-2008, 09:48 AM   #8
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Default Re: Defense ruled the game for Steelers

love this quote by Tomlin

"I wanted to have an opportunity to let these guys know that we were coming and coming to win,"
Nah, this coach is too soft

keep doin your thing coach
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