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Old 11-09-2011, 06:04 AM   #1
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Default LeBeau's defensive schemes test rookie QBs

LeBeau's defensive schemes test rookie QBs
By Mark Kaboly
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rookie quarterbacks facing Dick LeBeau-designed defenses have had little or no success.

LeBeau's zone-blitz scheme defense has given rookie signal-callers fits judged by the numbers alone: a 1-12 record, a 52 percent completion percentage, seven touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Since LeBeau took over the Steelers' defense in 2004, only once in 13 games did a rookie quarterback get the best of LeBeau Baltimore's Troy Smith in a meaningless Week 17 game in 2007.

When the Steelers (6-3) take on Cincinnati (6-2) at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday in another key AFC North matchup, LeBeau's defense will face another rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton.

But as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin put it at his weekly news conference Tuesday, "He's not your typical rookie."

Despite having no offseason preparation because of the NFL lockout, Dalton has taken nearly every snap for the Bengals and has them atop the division midway through the season.

"I look in his eyes and see a winner," Bengals receiver A.J. Green said. "He's used to winning."

Dalton was the Bengals' second-round pick out of TCU, where he compiled a 42-7 record. His style has translated well to the pro game.

"The kid shows gumption; he's in our face," Bengals lineman Andrew Whitworth said. "It takes a lot for a rookie to do that."

Dalton has modest numbers 1,696 yards, 12 touchdowns, seven interceptions, passer rating of 85.0 but has found a way to win games, especially late.

Dalton is the first rookie quarterback to lead at least three game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime since Atlanta's Matt Ryan had four in 2008. Out of his 12 touchdown passes, seven came on third down including all three of Cincinnati's scores last week in a 24-17 win over Tennessee.

"He has come into a situation where a lot of rookies don't come into in that he has been the guy since Day 1," Tomlin said. "They had complete clarity, and that has helped them and has helped him."

Dalton has been doing very unrookie-like things. He has turned the ball over only seven times and has been sacked 13 times.

"I just try to stay the same, regardless of what's happening," Dalton said. "I can't get too high, I can't get too low. I can't worry about what's happened; it's the next play. That's just how I've been."

Tomlin has been impressed with Dalton.

"Andy Dalton is doing an awesome job for these guys," Tomlin said. "He is doing a nice job of taking care of the football. He is not turning the ball over and is doing a nice job of making quick decisions. He has shown to be a pretty mature signal-caller from the onset."

The Steelers will try to put pressure on Dalton and put him in uncomfortable positions like they did to Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert last month. Gabbert passed for only 109 yards.

But Dalton is different. He was exposed to a multitude of defenses while at TCU, including things similar to the zone-blitz scheme.

"I've feel like I saw a lot of things in college by practicing against our defense," Dalton said. "There are always going to be some new things, some things that are going to show up that maybe haven't been on film."

Mark Kaboly can be reached at mkaboly@dailynewsemail.com or 412-664-9161.
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