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Old 10-14-2007, 09:09 AM   #1
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Default Defense '07 -- Shades of steel, shades of history

Defense '07 -- Shades of steel, shades of history
AuthorEd Bouchette

The Steel Curtain defense had nothing over the one playing today. The Blitzburgh defense of the mid-90s could not hold a candle to the 2007 version.

In fact, no Steelers defense in the past 70 years has accomplished what this one has through the first five games of the season. As a team, the Steelers have allowed 47 points with one touchdown coming on a punt return.

No Steelers team gave up fewer points in its first five games since the 1937 club allowed 38 in its first five in an era when scoring a touchdown was cause for a ticker-tape parade.

Not even some of the defenders who helped do it believe it.

"Really?'' nose tackle Chris Hoke asked. "I didn't realize that. That's huge. You think of all the great defenses who have played here. All the great Steel Curtain teams in the '70s, the defenses Bill Cowher had in the '90s. Some teams we had in the 2000s. We've had some great teams here. That's a big accomplishment."

Even the 1976 Steelers, the one Art Rooney Sr. called his best team, did not come close. In perhaps the greatest defensive performance of all time, that

team shut out five of its final nine opponents and did not allow a touchdown in eight of those nine games.

But that was not the case in the first five games of 1976 when they allowed 110 points, not even close to what this team has done.

They lead the NFL in fewest points per game (9.4) and are first in fewest yards per game (235.6), fewest yards per play (4.2) and tied for first with 17 sacks. They have allowed no touchdowns in the first half of games and only two field goals by San Francisco.

The Steelers are playing the kind of dominating defense that could spawn another lasting nickname.

Deshea Townsend, the 10-year veteran cornerback, has a few theories as to why they have been so dominant.

"I think for one, no big plays," Townsend said.

The Steelers have allowed no pass completion longer than the one of 38 yards caught by Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona. There have been four passes of 25 yards or longer against them. In the first five games last season, they already had allowed two of 48 yards or longer and six of 25 and above.

"Our offense is playing well too," Townsend said. "That helps.''

The Steelers have possessed the ball for an average of 35 minutes, 12 seconds -- nearly 10 1/2 minutes longer than their opponents. That helps a defense stay fresh and, when they're not on the field, they can't give up yardage.

As for other reasons: Just one starter changed from last season (linebacker James Harrison for Joey Porter) on what has been a good defense for several years. They have had better play from the cornerbacks, and an improved pass rush. Less than potent opposing offenses through five games also could be cited except the Seahawks came in with a strong defense last Sunday and left with the first shutout in Heinz Field history.

"We've had some good defenses here before," said end Aaron Smith. "I don't know, maybe guys have been longer in this system, more together. This defense has been the same group of guys for a long time."

Coordinator Dick LeBeau, as previously noted, also has been given more freedom to call his defenses by coach Mike Tomlin. LeBeau has deployed a different defense on occasion this season as well.

Traditionally, on passing downs, the Steelers would move into their dime defense -- six in the secondary, one middle linebacker and four up front with the two of those on the outside being linebackers. They call in the quarter defense when they use three safeties and three cornerbacks instead of two and four.

At times they have used four linemen up front instead of two with two linebackers in their pass defense. Those four, when healthy, are Smith, Hoke, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel with Keisel often standing up and the other three down.

They call that formation their Big Quarters and use it with six defensive backs and one middle linebacker.

"Some games we play it quite a bit and some we don't play at all," Hoke said.

Its use is more effective on second-and-long when a team might throw or run from a spread formation.

"They try to come out with multiple-receiver formations and run the ball," Hoke said. "We try to put some bigger guys up front; it deters them from running the ball."

"I like it," Smith said. "It's a nice changeup, especially when teams try to get us in quarters and then run the ball. It gives them a different look."

There will never be another Steel Curtain, but this defense is playing like it.
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Old 10-14-2007, 10:26 AM   #2
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Default Re: Defense '07 -- Shades of steel, shades of history

Duplicate post: http://forums.steelersfever.com/show...793#post307793

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