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Old 12-03-2005, 01:24 AM   #1
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Cool LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05337/616639.stm

Saturday, December 03, 2005

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bob Bratkowski turned 50 yesterday, but the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator must feel 80 every time he tries to figure out what his former boss, Dick LeBeau, is doing on defense.

LeBeau, the Steelers' defensive coordinator, moves players around like office furniture, trying one here, another there, until he finds the right look for the Steelers' defense. Earlier this season, he began by letting Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu line up at nearly every position but nose tackle to take advantage of Polamalu's speed and hitting ability.

And he is doing it again with outside linebacker Joey Porter.

Porter, a two-time Pro Bowler, has been lining up as a kind of rover back and dropping into coverage when the Steelers use their nickel package, a defense they used with success against the Indianapolis Colts Monday night, never mind the final score.

The tactic appeared to confuse Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on several occasions because the Steelers blitz different players when Porter drops into coverage.

"We've had that in our defense all along," inside linebacker James Farrior said. "We just haven't used it."

LeBeau reached into an old Steelers playbook and pulled a wrinkle from the mothballs for the previous meeting in Cincinnati, when he had cornerback Ike Taylor follow Bengals receiver Chad Johnson all over the field -- a tactic the Steelers hadn't used since Rod Woodson was their cornerback.

The maneuver worked because Johnson, the AFC's leading receiver, was held to four catches for 94 yards that included a meaningless 47-yarder with 2:25 remaining in a 27-13 Steelers victory.

It will be left to Bratkowski, who was hired in Cincinnati when LeBeau was the head coach there, to figure out the latest twist in the Steelers' defense. Or, perhaps, said LeBeau, maybe the other way around.

"Offenses will change a little more than defenses," LeBeau said. "You'll see certain patterns from formations and then they want to show you something differently. They have more plays at their disposal and they can change them a lot easier."

The Steelers (7-4) have done a good job against the AFC's top two offenses, holding the Bengals and Colts to a combined 39 points. They will need more of the same at 1 p.m. tomorrow against the Bengals (8-3), who have scored 79 points in their past two games.

And that puts great emphasis on the defensive coordinator credited with designing the zone-blitz scheme that has been copied throughout the NFL, the coach who is generally acknowledged as the first to discover how to disrupt the West Coast offense.

He has certainly been able to do that to Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who leads the NFL in passer rating, completion percentage (69.8) and touchdowns (23). Palmer has had a passer rating of 100 or better in 13 of the past 14 games. But the previous two times he hasn't had a 100 or better rating was against the Steelers.

"You can't compare an in-house rival against another team you play every now and then," Porter said, referring to the Colts. "We play Cincinnati twice a year. When you play a team like that, you get familiar with what they try to do, they get familiar with what you try to do. It always comes down to who's better that day.

"We know the situation we're in. We haven't been in a situation where we're battling Cincinnati for a game that means so much, not since I've been here. It will require that much more attention to detail. It means a lot more than it normally does in a season."

The Steelers used their nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) packages primarily in Indianapolis because the Colts use a lot of multiple-receiver formations. One of the few times they were in their base 3-4 defense was on the first play from scrimmage, when Manning threw an 80-yard touchdown to Marvin Harrison.

LeBeau, though, added a new wrinkle to the nickel with his deployment of Porter.

"He has experience at both roles -- he's a very good pass rusher and he has also played as the backer in the nickel," LeBeau said. "He can do both."

"I do a lot of different things," Porter said of his new role. "I'm a little bit everywhere. I just try to do whatever my job. I'm ready for the challenge, no matter what the challenge is.

"The whole scheme of the defense is fit for everybody to be in the right place at the right time to help this team win. If it calls for me to do a little more of this, a little more of that, I just have to be able to do it."
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Old 12-03-2005, 09:13 AM   #2
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

A lot of people have complained about Porter disappearing this year. This is probably the reason why. Porter is being used much more than his usual assignment and so, consequently, he is not getting sacks like we are used to seeing. I am glad we have two linebackers on our squad versatile enough to do this.
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Old 12-03-2005, 09:25 AM   #3
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

This is good news...now we just need the offense to step up...
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Old 12-03-2005, 09:36 AM   #4
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

I like seeing this. Just one thing to Cowher. DO NOT GO FOR AN ONSIDE KICK!
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Old 12-03-2005, 10:49 AM   #5
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

So one wonders how much different our defense would be if Porter wasnt there doing all these extra things. he may not be getting the sacks but he's doing alot more than apparentely we all thought !

Go get em Joey !!!
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Old 12-03-2005, 03:23 PM   #6
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

Our defense will step it up! And we will win!
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Old 12-03-2005, 03:33 PM   #7
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

Amen Brother Cleve
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Old 12-03-2005, 03:44 PM   #8
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

I do not believe Porter started doing "all those different things" until the Colts game. Porter had greater pass coverage responsibilities Monday night in an attempt to slow down the Colts passing game. As is the case when trying to elect what to concede when playing the Colts, that resulted in less commitent to stopping the run, which contributed to James being the first back to run for over 100 yards against the Steelers this year. It was a variation on the scheme Jax and other teams were trying earlier in the year, which is to make Manning beat you slowly and hope he gets impatient (which was working until the 10 points that were given up at the end of the first and beginning of second halfs).

I am glad Porter apparently finally played a good game, but his underperformance most of this year has nothing to do with the schemes the Steelers played Monday night.
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Old 12-03-2005, 04:19 PM   #9
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

We've actually been talking about Porter dropping into coverage more for weeks...
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Old 12-04-2005, 12:01 AM   #10
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Default Re: LeBeau scheming to slow Bengals

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suitanim
This is good news...now we just need the offense to step up...

We need tio execute it first. This D, that is.
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