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Old 11-17-2006, 04:06 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

Friday, November 17, 2006
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers don't need a flashing green light to instruct their linebackers to chase Cleveland Browns quarterback Charlie Frye. The signal was already flashed when the defensive players saw the amount of times Frye has been sacked this season. Or the amount of turnovers he has committed because, in all likelihood, of the pressure.

Not that members of the Steelers' defense have been spending large amounts of time in an opponent's backfield lately. Or that their sack totals are equal to the amount of turnovers they have committed this season.

But, when the people entrusted with chasing the quarterback saw that Frye has been sacked 34 times -- a pace dubious enough to chase Tim Couch's franchise record of 54 -- it was almost as though they received a floral-embossed invitation to spend some time in the Browns' backfield.

"It lets us know it's out there for us," said inside linebacker James Farrior. "We're definitely aware of the situation. But we still have to go out and execute."

Frye, a second-year quarterback from Akron University, has spent an inordinate amount of time on his back this season, an occupational hazard the Browns didn't think would exist with an experienced offensive line. But there he is, after nine games, running second to Oakland's Andrew Walter among NFL quarterbacks who have been sacked the most.

On top of that, Frye has thrown 12 interceptions and lost five fumbles, giving him an easy lead in the turnover race with Ben Roethlisberger, who has committed 15 turnovers (14 interceptions, one fumble) in a season fraught with frustration, bewilderment and, of course, mistakes.

The Steelers (3-6) believe Frye's mistakes are a result of quarterback pressure, which is why they just might rachet the heat Sunday when they play the Browns (3-6) in Cleveland.

"That's the best therapy for us -- sacking the quarterback," said outside linebacker Joey Porter. "I know a quarterback can't make the perfect throw he wants to if he has me and Clark [Haggans] and Aaron Smith and [Brett] Keisel in his face or hanging on him while he's trying to throw the ball. We put it on the guys who rush the quarterback. It's our job to try and get to the quarterback and make him more frustrated."

That, though, hasn't been happening with much regularity.

The Steelers have 10 sacks in their past five games, and six of those came against the defenseless Walter, who must feel like a hockey goalie. In the past two games, they have managed one sack each against Jake Plummer of Denver and Drew Brees of New Orleans, who combined to throw for 625 yards and four touchdowns against them.

What's more, the players the Steelers rely on to create pressure and register sacks -- Porter and outside linebacker Haggans, who led all NFL linebacker tandems in sacks in 2005 -- have done little to threaten a repeat of that achievement.

Haggans leads the team with 4.5 sacks, but he has just 1.5 in the past five games (against Oakland). Porter has four sacks -- two each in games against Miami and Oakland (of course) -- but none in the past two games.

More disturbing is that Haggans (3) and Porter (2) have combined for only five quarterback pressures, a total that trails defensive ends Keisel (15) and Smith (11) and is one more than the seldom-used Travis Kirschke (4).

"As a pass-rusher, you always want to get sacks," said Porter, who led all NFL linebackers in sacks with 11.5 last season. "You want to help the defensive backs. It's not the first time we went without getting a sack. I try to tell the guys all the time they come in bunches. You go get one or two here, and then you have a game where you have seven or eight as a team.

"Sometimes, guys block it up and sometimes we're just beating people. We definitely look for that time to start beating people and getting some sacks."

The Steelers have 24 sacks after nine games -- that's on pace for 43 this season -- but the pressure is not coming from the usual spots. Farrior said some recent opponents have tried to combat the Steelers' zone blitzes by using a running back and sometimes a tight end to help with max protection.

In addition, he said, quarterbacks such as Plummer and Brees throw on three-step drops, making it difficult to get to the quarterback.

"There's not a whole lot you can do when they're max-protecting or taking three-step drops because most of the time you're not going to be able to get there," Farrior said. "It's going to be hard. So, we'll disguise our coverages, make it look like we're coming and then drop back, or we just might come with more than they can block."

Inside linebacker Larry Foote, who already has tied his career high with three sacks, said the Steelers have not been blitzing as much because of that.

"Teams are starting to keep everyone in to calm down our pressure," Foote said. "We haven't been blitzing as much because teams are just throwing the ball up. They're not giving us a chance to get there. But, if the quarterback stays back there, we're going to get to him."
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Old 11-17-2006, 07:18 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

My problem with the Steelers D playcalling this season is not the number of sacks they are getting or their pass rush in general - I just would like to see a pass rush on more of a consistent basis. It seems they pass rush like madmen in the first quarter or two when they sniff out a pass play and then abandon it in the second half. With Frye - he's a lean, mean turnover machine - keeping consistent pressure on him will turn him into a black and gold Santa Claus and Christmas should come early for our D in Heaveland.
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Old 11-17-2006, 07:22 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

Sacked him eight times last meeting. No reason why we can't do it now. While last season is last season, Charlie Frye looks the same to me. Bring the house and make the kid run for his life.
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Old 11-17-2006, 08:13 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

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[Sacked him eight times last meeting. No reason why we can't do it now. While last season is last season, Charlie Frye looks the same to me. Bring the house and make the kid run for his life.
The only problem with this is the D is not playing like they were last year. Hopefully that will get better, but too many times this year have average QBs made our D look real bad. And this team has not won two in a row this year, so I am still somewhat tentative about this game. Also, Winslow is playing this year and they have Braylon Edwards, two good receiving threats. Hopefully they will be nullified, but this year every game has me on the edge of my seat.
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Old 11-17-2006, 08:16 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

By no means am I comfortable with this game. Come to think of it, I don't remember the last time I was comfortable heading into a game this season. At the same time, I'd still rather see the Steelers bring the house. It's better than watching Charlie Frye sit back and pick us apart untouched.
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Old 11-17-2006, 08:40 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

What they have to do is be prepared for the clowns to go into max protect and adjust their blitz packages to that blocking. Other wise it will be another fruitless day of blitzes that never get to touch the QB (except maybe his sock).
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Old 11-17-2006, 08:40 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

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Originally Posted by jbattenhouse View Post
The only problem with this is the D is not playing like they were last year. Hopefully that will get better, but too many times this year have average QBs made our D look real bad. And this team has not won two in a row this year, so I am still somewhat tentative about this game. Also, Winslow is playing this year and they have Braylon Edwards, two good receiving threats. Hopefully they will be nullified, but this year every game has me on the edge of my seat.
palmer, vick, plummer, culpepper and brees have all been pro bowlers. rivers will be a pro bowler.

really weve only faced one average qb in leftwich, and a sucky one in walter. neither of them did that great, nor could they find the endzone.
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Old 11-17-2006, 08:52 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

Turn it up baby....turn it up!

-Mike
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Old 11-17-2006, 09:15 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

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palmer, vick, plummer, culpepper and brees have all been pro bowlers. rivers will be a pro bowler.
Maybe in the past, but I would not say that Palmer, Culpepper, or Vick at this point is close to going to the ProBowl, and the jury is still out on Plummer. Rivers I can see. Palmer is a very good passer, but a statue and has played poorly this year under pressure (as usual). The turnovers and lack of D pressure on the ensuing play were what hurt here. Vick is an athletic freak, but as a QB I would not rate him above average, but our D made him look great due to lack of pressure. I did not watch the Miami game, but Culpepper is not the same player he was in Minnesota at this point. Plummer played mistake free, which was something he wasn't able to do last year due to pressure. Notice a common theme?

We were able to beat Brees and company due to their turnovers and our lack of them. The turnovers were forced fumbles, which was good play by the D, but he still carved us up pretty good and had a shot at the end (just like the Steelers most of this season). Leftwich had a lot more time to throw than Ben did in that game and only some good D play at the end of the drives kept them out of the endzone. And Walter did not have to do anything to beat us - we did it for him.
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Old 11-17-2006, 09:24 AM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers' defense hopes to turn up heat Sunday

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Maybe in the past, but I would not say that Palmer, Culpepper, or Vick at this point is close to going to the ProBowl, and the jury is still out on Plummer.
I'm right with you on Culpepper. Once he is back from his knee surgery, we'll see though.

Palmer.....he has the potential physically, just not quite all there mentally as a leader. He shows flashes of being the leader type Pro Bowl QB, and puts up the big numbers at times.

Vick is a tough call. I don't think what he did against us was a fluke. He has a good arm to go with that amazing speed. Maybe as he gets older, he'll settle down on the running and fine tune his passing skills. What he needs is a top notch QB coach to come in and teach him how to be a passer instead of a thrower.

Plummer.....poor guy. He manages to hang around and play well enough to keep his job. There is something to be said for that in the "what have you done for me lately NFL". Especially when he has the next Elway looking over his shoulder.

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