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Old 09-30-2006, 04:19 AM   #1
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Default Townsend sets sack mark for CBs

By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


e game wasn't stopped. The scoreboard wasn't aglow with a celebratory announcement of the event. The honoree wasn't aware of the circumstance.

Rather, Deshea Townsend imperceptibly, almost invisibly, crept Sunday into a select spot in Steelers' lore:

All-time sack leader among cornerbacks.

Hey, when the previous record-holder was Rod Woodson, a member of the NFL's 75th anniversary all-time team, that's saying something.

The thing was, Townsend didn't know it. He thought that when he nabbed Cincinnati's Carson Palmer for a 9-yard loss at the Steelers' 31 with 51 seconds left in the third quarter Sunday, he was expecting to be credited with half a sack. After all, James Farrior recovered the fumble that Townsend forced.

Yet Townsend earned full credit for the play, on a day when he also intercepted a pass, deflected away two other Palmer attempts and recorded nine tackles. As a result, that gave him 14.5 sacks in his Steelers career, surpassing Woodson by one -- and in one fewer season, nine.

Granted, the sack stat wasn't officially kept until 1982, though Mel Blount and the folks predating him weren't part of the cornerback-blitzing penchant of the modern-day NFL. Nor does Townsend's total give him the all-time team lead in that category: Such a place is believed to belong to Carnell Lake, the linebacker-sized safety and part-time cornerback with 21.5 sacks in his 10-year Steelers career and the only cornerback/defensive back to lead the Steelers in sacks, with six in 1997. Still, it's an accomplishment.

"Only one guy has done it," Townsend said of a Steelers cornerback regularly sacking so many quarterbacks. "So, it has to be an elite club."

Considering that Townsend is listed -- generously -- at 5 feet 10 and 190 pounds, it enhances the feat registered on a team steeped in sack tradition. After all, that storied Steelers' list includes an array of Hall of Famers such as Joe Greene (66), Jack Ham (25.5) and Jack Lambert (23.5). And then there's Woodson, whom Townsend figured, without looking it up, for a 20-sack, 20-interception guy in his Steelers career.

In truth, Woodson never recorded another NFL sack after departing the Steelers in 1996 and finished here with 38 interceptions, fourth on the team's all-time list. And Lake isn't officially a member of that club, either, falling just short in the first category with 16 interceptions as a Steeler.

So Townsend has 20-20 in his sights, and Sunday kept him on a slow track to perhaps becoming the first Steeler to reach those interception-sack totals.

His first-quarter interception of Palmer Sunday, the turnover that prompted the Steelers' march that ended with a Ben Roethlisberger interception in the end zone, provided Townsend with career pickoff No. 15. This from a fellow who has been a full-time starter only since 2003.

In that brief time as a starter and, before that, nickel back, Townsend gathered almost as many sacks, too. Fact is, he tied for fourth on the team in sacks each of his past two seasons as a starter.

So how does the diminutive cornerback blitz so effectively?

In short, by being small.

"You want to try to stay hidden as much as possible," Townsend said this week before the Steelers embarked on their three-day weekend off. "Let the big guys go first, for the most part.

"But the main thing is to hit it at full speed."

Disguising that blitz commands an equally vital role. If the cornerback is stomping in front of the tight end or offensive tackle, making his here-I-come presence known, he would have nowhere near the same success as staying up the line quietly staring down a receiver. Moreover, much like an oncoming defensive lineman or linebacker, a cornerback needs help from his secondary mates to cover one-on-one and make up for the receiver he left behind. It also doesn't hurt if those linemen and linebackers occupy the heftier blockers littering a cornerback's path to the quarterback.

Still, not every cornerback meets success and sacks in an opposing backfield.

"He's good at it," linebacker Larry Foote said of the blitzing Townsend. "You saw the one he had in the Super Bowl [fourth quarter]. And Deshea will put it in your face, 'I got more sacks than you.' "

Foote, Clark Haggans and Joey Porter hold that team lead with two after three games, followed by Townsend and three others with one apiece.

"A lot of times, the defensive backs, they come free, but they don't get the quarterback down," Foote added. "Deshea knows how to get it done."
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Old 09-30-2006, 06:58 AM   #2
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Default Re: Townsend sets sack mark for CBs

Great read LLT! I know Deshea gets beat on the long ball once in a while (who doesn't?), but he has made some valuable contributions to the Steelers during his 9 year career here. I've always appreciated him and am glad he's still a member of the B & G.
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Old 09-30-2006, 08:39 AM   #3
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Default Re: Townsend sets sack mark for CBs

Nice accomplishment!
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Old 09-30-2006, 09:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: Townsend sets sack mark for CBs

Definately a highlight of that game.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:48 AM   #5
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Default Re: Townsend sets sack mark for CBs

Way to go Townsend!
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Old 10-01-2006, 06:10 AM   #6
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Default Re: Townsend sets sack mark for CBs

HERE WE GO STEELERS .... HERE WE GO........ Its amazing how we are Not heariin' alot about Townsend these days... he gets beat once or twice a game but still nothin' ... I love the guy and feel pretty comfortable with he and Taylor and our secondary right now... yeh.. you may say that the Bengals WR's had a big game but they have a Great Recieving Corp..
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Old 10-02-2006, 10:13 AM   #7
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Default Re: Townsend sets sack mark for CBs

That was a great article. I admit to having bagged on Townsend over the years but he has been consistent at making plays when they are needed.

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Old 10-03-2006, 07:15 PM   #8
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Default Re: Townsend sets sack mark for CBs

big play deshea!!! GO gettum beat dem bolts!!!
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