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Old 12-08-2008, 12:52 PM   #1
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Default Steelers' defense deserves more credit

Steelers' defense deserves more credit
By John Harris
Monday, December 8, 2008

Besides shutting down some of the best offenses in the NFL, the Steelers' defense also scores points.

There practically isn't anything this defense doesn't do.

For those skeptics and nonbelievers who won't be satisfied with anything less than a Steelers' victory in Super Bowl XLII, Sunday's thrilling, 20-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Heinz Field probably won't change your point of view.

You will focus on Dallas receiver Terrell Owens' third-quarter touchdown catch, instead of that Owens, facing single coverage from cornerback Ike Taylor, was limited to three catches for 32 yards.

You will complain about the Steelers' inconsistent offense that produced only a field goal through the first three quarters but scored 10 points in the final 15 minutes when anything less would have meant defeat.

That's too bad because you're witnessing history in the making.

The Steelers defense is so talented and dominant in every conceivable way that merely calling it great should be considered an insult.

"We're underrated. People don't really say nothing (good) about us," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "We always hear about everybody else. We like it like that. We like for people to overlook us."

Prior to yesterday's game, the worst thing that could be said about the Steelers' top-ranked defense is that it prevented points from being scored but rarely scored them, as other top defenses have done.

It's time to find something else to complain about.

Veteran cornerback Deshea Townsend, dropping back in a three-deep zone on second-and-8 from the Dallas 17 with less than 2 minutes remaining, intercepted quarterback Tony Romo and sped 25 yards for the winning touchdown.

"We made some big plays today. We finally scored," inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "We put pressure on ourselves. A lot of defenses have scored. It was a great game to get one."

It was a typical game for the Steelers this season because the defense's mistakes were magnified since they commit so few of them.

The Steelers held the Cowboys to 289 total yards, marking the 13th game this season that their opponent failed to gain 300 yards.

Romo escaped the pass rush to buy time and connect with Owens in the back of the end zone, giving the Cowboys a 10-3 lead in the third quarter. But he finished the game 19 of 36 passing for 210 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, and he was sacked three times.

"We left a lot of things on the field. We gave up a lot of big plays," outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley said.

Woodley got it twisted. He made the second-biggest play on Townsend's interception when he rushed inside, pressured Romo up the middle and forced him to throw in a hurry.

"I saw the inside move, so I decided to take it," Woodley said. "A lot of tackles have been playing me hard upfield lately, setting themselves up and make sure they don't get bull-rushed. I got underneath."

After telling himself to "catch it .. catch it," Townsend took care of the rest.

"It was the same route they had been running all night, the same route they ran earlier" Townsend said.

And it was the same Steelers defense that validated its No. 1 ranking when it KO'd another opponent.

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