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Old 09-20-2010, 11:26 PM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Next for the Steelers defense

Next for the Steelers defense
By Scott Brown
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is not one to show much emotion.

So it is difficult to imagine him walking around Steelers' headquarters this week with a smile as wide as James Harrison's mean streak.

Tampa Bay can only imagine the plans he has in store for second-year Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Freeman, like the 2-0 Buccaneers, is off to a nice beginning to 2010. But he will be making only his 12th career start when the Bucs play host to the Steelers.

LeBeau has built his reputation as a defensive mastermind by tormenting quarterbacks, especially ones that, like Freeman, have 14 career touchdown passes and 19 interceptions.

If the Steelers didn't expose Vince Young this past Sunday, their evisceration of the Titans' offense confirmed that it usually takes a top-tier quarterback to beat LeBeau's defense.

Young, a Pro Bowler last season, couldn't do it.

And LeBeau was at his best in the second quarter when he had LaMarr Woodley drop into coverage after the outside linebacker had lined up inside defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel.

The maneuver so confused Young that he tossed a pass right to a back-pedaling Woodley, who made his second career interception.

"That was a great call," Woodley said.

Freeman can expect more of the same when the 2009 first-round draft pick attempts to build on his impressive start.

The Steelers are not going to let Tampa Bay run the ball on them. And shutting down Cadillac Williams should prove to be easier than stopping Chris Johnson, who managed just 34 yards on 16 carries against the Steelers' defense.

LeBeau will dare the 22-year-old Freeman to beat him -- and then try to harass and confuse the Bucs' QB every step of the way.

Three questions for Hines Ward

Q: "Jersey Shore" is can't-miss TV for you?

A: "It's the most hilarious show out there. I don't even know why they show it; it's one of those shows I can't explain. For 30 minutes, I can just laugh my tail off."

Q: How you do know when you have gotten under an opponent's skin or inside his head?

A: "When they talk about your mama or start cussing at you. Or, if they start complimenting me and patting me on the butt before and after each and every play. I don't do much talking. Some guys talk to me just to amp themselves up, but it's not going to change the way I play. I'm going to keep coming at you and coming at you."

Q: Do you have a favorite block among your collection of hits?

A: "Block? No. People call me the best blocker and that's a great honor, but that's how I made a name for myself. I fought hard on special teams, worked my tail off, and when I got into the game, I just started trying to knock guys out. When I got my opportunity (at wide receiver), it wasn't who they brought on to the team, I wasn't going to lose my spot."

By the numbers

2 -- Touchbacks for kicker Jeff Reed after having three all of last season

7 -- Offensive plays in which the Steelers have gained at least 20 yards this season

8 -- Turnovers the Steelers have forced in their last three games against the Buccaneers

9 -- Multi-sack games for outside linebacker James Harrison since becoming a starter in 2007

33.3 -- Third-down percentage of Steelers opponents through two games

42.3 -- Third-down percentage of Steelers opponents in 2009


Free safety Ryan Clark, on the Steelers having to rely on their defense while starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger serves a four-game suspension

"We know the situation we're in. We know the offense is going to play it close to the vest and make sure guys don't make mistakes. We just need to (create) turnovers and try to give them short fields."

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, on downplaying the importance of the Steelers' 2-0 start

"I don't think it's about how you start, I think it's about how you finish. A lot of times start off high but when you get into grind time, you're tired and you've been playing for 13-14 weeks. That really shows what type of team that you have. We don't want to be a team that's just September-October. We want to be a team in November-December."

Left guard Chris Kemoeatu, on the offensive linemen preparing to play another warm-weather game Sunday at Tampa.

"It shouldn't be a factor, but as far as us big guys up front, we've got to make sure we hydrate (during the week). We sweat a lot, and we're big men moving around. We're used to playing in the cold. We're not used to the hot weather."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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