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|11-17-2007, 05:11 AM||#1|
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Steelers' Defense Dictates Tempo
Steelers' defense dictates tempo
By John Harris
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Being the top-rated defense in the NFL has its privileges.
The Steelers are imposing their will on opposing offenses. They're reducing teams to settling for the short pass because they generally don't have enough time to throw long.
Big plays are becoming passe against the Steelers, who are the only team this season that hasn't allowed a pass play of 40 or more yards.
"Teams are taking less shots down the field. They're just trying to move the chains," defensive end Aaron Smith said.
Smith said teams are leaving more players in to block in an attempt to protect the quarterback. But that strategy makes offenses more predictable and less dangerous.
"This year, you kind of pick your poison with us," Smith said.
Using maximum pass protection sacrifices a tight end or running back who would ordinarily run a pass route. It's one way that teams have attempted to counter the Steelers' ability to pressure the quarterback.
The Steelers' 25 sacks are the fourth-highest total in the league.
"Defensively, we've gotten so much pressure on teams they're having to start buttoning up on us," Smith said.
"Teams always seem to block us a little differently than they do other teams because we run so much stuff. Tight ends have stayed in and max protected. We have to find out who they're trying to chip on, give extra help to. A lot of times they might slide the line one way and then chip with the back on the other guy. I've gotten some chips."
"Chipping" is when a tight end or running back brushes a defensive lineman or linebacker before he goes into his route. He's not responsible for blocking the defender, but he wants to brush him just enough to slow him down for the offensive lineman to block him.
Smith said teams are chipping more this season than in previous years.
"They're sacrificing something to get more protection for the quarterback," Smith said. "Less receivers get to run the routes, less options for the quarterback to throw to."
Last Sunday's 31-28 win over Cleveland was a good example of the Steelers' defense in action.
The Browns scored on their first possession, driving 71 yards in 16 plays. Quarterback Derek Anderson was 7 of 10 for 56 yards on the drive. His longest completion was 12 yards.
The Steelers tightened their coverage against Cleveland's receivers, giving Anderson a smaller window to throw into. As a result, Anderson was only 9 of 25 for 67 yards the rest of the game.
Cleveland's longest offensive play was 16 yards, which it accomplished twice.
"Early on they did a good job of keeping themselves in third and short and manageable situations, just kept moving the chains. They made some plays here and there that first drive," Smith said. "After that, we just kind of buttoned up and knew what they were trying to do."
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