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Old 11-14-2006, 05:13 AM   #1
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Default Slumping defense remains a major worry to Steelers

Slumping defense remains a major worry to Steelers

By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- If nothing else, this illustrates how their defense is evolving: the Pittsburgh Steelers gave up 517 yards and 31 points to the New Orleans Saints, yet were happy with the result.

"We gave them too much," linebacker Joey Porter said. "But we won, and that's what counts."

Especially given that the Super Bowl champion Steelers (3-6) had won only one of their previous seven games before beating the Saints 38-31 on Sunday.

The problem is that only their second victory since Sept. 7 didn't legitimately get them back into the AFC North race - they're down four games to Baltimore (7-2) with seven to play - or end one of the worst stretches of defense during the Bill Cowher era.

Winning glossed over some of their ongoing problems, and gave a glimmer of hope they can still make something of a season that seemed lost a week ago. A difficult schedule lightens up in the next few weeks, with two games against division rival Cleveland (3-6) and another against Tampa Bay (2-6).

"Until someone says we're eliminated, we're going to keep playing," Cowher said.

But while the Steelers finally played a game without committing a turnover - they had 10 in their previous two games - they still must be concerned about the dramatic falloff in play by a defense that has been one of the NFL's best for years.

Certainly, turnovers are a big part of the problem, but the Steelers have yielded 62 points in their last two games and 123 in their last four, an average of nearly 31 per game. And that includes a game against Oakland (2-7) and the NFL's lowest-scoring offense.

After giving up 17 or fewer points in three of their first five games, they have given up 31, 31 and 41 during their last four games. They are ninth from the bottom in points allowed after being the third-best a year ago.

Turnovers also don't explain why they're not getting to the quarterback - no Steelers defender has more than 4 1/2 sacks - or getting off the field enough on third down (opponents are converting nearly 40 percent of the time).

Are they getting old? A number of their key defensive regulars (Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, James Farrior) will be 30 or older within the next few months. Are opponents finally figuring out how to handle their multiple blitzes? Or have they simply peaked?

"We couldn't get off the field," Farrior complained after the Saints game.

The previous two seasons, the Steelers gave up as many as 31 points only once. This season, they've done that three times in the last month.

"I'm disappointed with the yardage, but I'm really happy with the win," Cowher said. "We've been on the other side of that. I'd rather give up 500 yards of offense and win than give up 98 yards and lose."

Cowher tried a psychological ploy to motivate his defense last week, benching top cornerback Ike Taylor on the first day of practice. Taylor was back in the lineup by Sunday, though he had nearly as rough a day defending against Saints rookie Marques Colston (10 catches) as he did against the Broncos' Javon Walker (2 TD catches) the week before.

But Cowher couldn't bench Taylor on Sunday because concussions to safety Troy Polamalu and starting cornerback Deshea Townsend meant he was using every healthy defensive back he had.

"We were trying not to get too flustered," safety Tyrone Carter said.

Cleveland, ninth from the bottom with a 16.7 scoring average, doesn't present the worries the Saints' offense did with Colston's size, Drew Brees' playmaking ability and Reggie Bush's speed. But the Steelers have to be concerned with how their defense is playing now that they're into the second half of a season that has yet to turn around.

"We've been faced with all kinds of situations," Porter said. "Guys could have easily folded their tents and started thinking about other stuff. But that's not the makeup of this team. We know what we have here in this locker room. It was only one game, but it's one game we definitely needed. Hopefully it's something we can build on."
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Old 11-14-2006, 06:16 AM   #2
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Default Re: Slumping defense remains a major worry to Steelers

pitts still has a chance to take the division even though balt is 4 games in front & cincy is 1.the steelers have 2 games against balt to play & 1 against cincy & 2 against clev.balt has a few tough games coming up & i dont see them beating kc & atl.how they manage to win is beyond me.the bottom line is pitts has to win the remaining 7 games.five are within the division.the other 2 are tampa bay & carolina.lets just hope for the best.

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Old 11-14-2006, 06:49 AM   #3
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Default Re: Slumping defense remains a major worry to Steelers

I'm concerned about the performance of our D, as well. Where the hell is the blitz that our D is infamous for??? We saw glimpses of it during the first halves of several games and then it was just about abandoned - why I don't know. While it is possible (and probable) that opponents' are figuring out our blitzing schemes and reacting accordingly, Labeau is the master at outsmarting and outwitting opposing OC's, yet he seems to use the blitz sparingly in his defensive game plans as of late. Sure, it was nice to get this win on Sunday against a formidable opponent, but the D has got to step it up from here on out if the Steelers are going to even have a glimmer of hope of making the playoffs this season.
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Old 11-14-2006, 10:46 AM   #4
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Default Re: Slumping defense remains a major worry to Steelers

we got the win, but there is now way a pittsburgh defense should give up that many points, its unacceptable. we miss a lot of tackles. people know we are going to blitz, so we need to do a better job of disguising it. and some time don't blitz whn people are expecting you to. our outside backers have to start beating the tackle around the corner. less time for the qb to pass is less time for our db's to cover which is a good theing the way there playing.
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