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Old 12-20-2008, 09:50 AM   #1
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Default Steelers defenders chuckle over absence of holding calls against foes

Steelers defenders chuckle over absence of holding calls against foes
Saturday, December 20, 2008
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Looking for that special statistic for someone this holiday season?

Searching for that nugget that will take someone's breath away, an eye-opening surprise that defies description and seems impossible to believe?

Here it is:

The Steelers are on the precipice of setting a club record for sacks in a season, needing nine more in the final two games to break the franchise standard of 55. Their 47 sacks are the most in the AFC, second only to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, and the 26.5 registered by James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley combined are the most by any tandem in the league. Already, they are the most by any linebacker tandem in franchise history, and the Steelers haven't exactly lacked in pass-rushing linebackers over the years.

What's more, Harrison and Woodley are rushing from each end of the line of scrimmage, coming off the edge and trying to run around -- or, in Woodley's case -- run through offensive tackles, most times in one-on-one situations. For tackles, that is an especially difficult task against Harrison, who is 5-foot-11 and uses his strength to get under, up and around tackles.

"I still haven't seen too many guys who can block him one-on-one without holding," said inside linebacker James Farrior.

But guess what?

Apparently, nobody is holding. At least, not according to the officials.

The Steelers have not seen an opponent called for offensive holding since the fourth quarter of the Nov. 3 game against the Washington Redskins, when left tackle Chris Samuels was penalized for holding Harrison.

That's six games -- 24 quarters -- without a holding penalty against the best pass-rush team in the AFC.

"That's shocking, actually," said center Justin Hartwig. "We sit out there and watch the defense and you see James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley getting around the edge like every play, and guys are just grabbing onto their shoulder pads and pushing them from behind.

"There are so many plays that are holding, but they don't call them. It happens so often. I don't know if the refs come to expect that, that they're just going to get around the corner every time, and they just don't call it or what."

OK, opponents have been called for offensive holding two other times since the 23-6 victory against Washington. But they hardly count.

In each instance -- against Indianapolis Nov. 9 and New England Nov. 30 -- the offensive holding penalty occurred on a punt return by the opponent.

When told of the penalty drought, Steelers defensive players reacted with mock sarcasm.

"I guess teams are doing a great job of blocking us," Farrior said.

"We don't get held -- ever," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "It's unbelievable."

"They're great athletes," said nose tackle Casey Hampton, trying to hold back a smile. "They get their hands inside and do their job."

The subject was a particularly touchy one with the 340-pound Hampton, especially because he was called for a holding penalty against the Patriots -- a penalty that enraged for four-time Pro Bowl tackle because he thinks he is held all the time without a flag even being thrown.

Hampton was so upset with the call he sacked Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel two plays later, only his second sack in 76 regular-season games.

"They play their best game against us every week," Hampton said, still smirking. "They just block us so well. They don't hold us."

It should be noted that, of the six teams the Steelers have played since the last offensive holding penalty, two of them -- the Colts and Patriots -- lead the league in fewest offensive holding penalties (9).

But, one of them -- Baltimore -- leads all potential NFL playoff teams with 22 offensive holding penalties. Left tackle Jared Gaither, who has lined against Harrison twice this season, has five of those.

None, though, in the 13-9 loss Sunday to the Steelers.

The Steelers are not complaining about the lack of holding penalties being called. They just find it amusing, if not ironic, considering the tenacity of their pass pressure.

"We can't get caught up in the referees," Farrior said. "That's something we can't control. We cry and gripe and more stuff like that, the more likely they will be to not call it. We have to keep our mouths shut, play our game and, hopefully, they'll start calling 'em."

In other words, hold on.

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Old 12-20-2008, 04:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers defenders chuckle over absence of holding calls against foes

Already posted: http://forums.steelersfever.com/showthread.php?t=30198
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