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Old 09-22-2009, 06:43 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09265/999771-66.stm

They lined up to take blame after the Steelers' 17-14 loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday. Jeff Reed, obviously. Hines Ward, who said the offense left too many plays on Soldier Field. Brett Keisel, who said the defense had no business blowing a fourth-quarter lead.

All were right, of course.

None more than Keisel, though.

Maybe that's because so many of us hold the Steelers' defense to a higher standard than the offense and special teams. The defense is largely the same as last season when it was the NFL's best. There's also no ambiguity when that bunch is involved. With the offense, we're left to wonder the true meaning of Steelers football these days: Is it run first or pass first? But with the defense, it's clear: Steelers football is stopping the run, not giving up big plays, getting off the field after third down, sacking the quarterback and forcing turnovers.

Hey, at least they stopped the run Sunday.

Clearly, that wasn't enough.

The defense's performance, unfortunately, brought back bad memories from Super Bowl XLIII. That night, the Arizona Cardinals scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to wipe out the Steelers' 20-7 lead. If not for that miracle 78-yard drive led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and that fabulous touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes at the end, the defense would have been remembered for the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history.

At least the great Kurt Warner and the incomparable Larry Fitzgerald were the ones playing pitch-and-catch in that game.

Sunday, the Steelers were beaten by quarterback Jay Cutler throwing to receivers named Johnny Knox and Kellen Davis. Cutler hung up a 104.7 passer rating on 'em, this after he was intercepted four times a week earlier in a loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Steelers didn't get one pick, didn't force any turnovers, actually. They also had just one sack officially -- by defensive end Aaron Smith -- although safety Tyrone Carter should have been credited with another when he tackled Cutler for a 1-yard loss after a scramble.

It's no wonder the defense couldn't hold a 14-7 fourth-quarter lead.

Not having Troy Polamalu was a big part of it. Absolutely, that was huge. It's hard for anyone to replace him, as Carter found out, especially after his left thigh was badly bruised in the second quarter. He shouldn't have been on the field when Knox beat him with an inside move for a 7-yard touchdown catch that tied the score, 14-14. "In hindsight, I hurt the team," he said. "I knew I couldn't cover him on that play."

Polamalu will be out for at least a few more weeks with his left knee sprain and Carter, who was limping badly at team headquarters yesterday, might miss the game at Cincinnati Sunday. Ryan Mundy would appear to be next in line at strong safety, which can't be a good thing because of his inexperience.

Still, the Steelers are going to have to show up at Paul Brown Stadium. As coach Mike Tomlin often says, the standards don't change because of injuries. Certainly, no one wants to hear excuses.

A better pass rush would help. The Steelers have just two sacks after the first two games, none by outside linebackers/sackmasters James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. At least Woodley got after Cutler a few times and hurried him into a couple of incompletions and an intentional-grounding penalty. Harrison, on the other hand, was most noticeable when he was penalized for a personal foul for hitting Cutler late and low on a first-down play at the Chicago 3, helping the Bears to dig out of a very deep hole.

"Teams aren't holding onto the ball as long," Woodley said yesterday. "They're throwing quick passes instead of going for big bombs."

Still ...

"We had opportunities to get sacks [Sunday]. We just didn't take him down," Woodley said, mentioning his chances and those of linebacker James Farrior. "It kind of felt like we beat ourselves a little bit."

More pressure on the quarterback and actually finishing the sacks occasionally will take a lot of pressure off the secondary on those third-down plays. The Bears converted 3 of 3 on their 13-play, 97-yard touchdown drive in the first half and 2 of 2 on their nine-play, 72-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Cutler also completed a 5-yard pass to wide receiver Devin Hester on third-and-4 on their winning field-goal drive at the end.

Keisel was right on for fingering the defense for this loss.

"We've got to have enough pride to keep a lead in the fourth quarter if we want to be the team we want to be," he said. "Losing a game like that is something we can't let happen."

Not in Cincinnati Sunday.

Not again, period.

Aired out

The Steelers' defense has given up an uncharacteristic amount of yards through the air in the past three games going back to Super Bowl XLIII:

Date Opponent PYd Avg. RYd Avg. Total

Feb. 1 vs. Arizona Cardinals 374 8.3 33 2.8 407

Sept. 10 vs. Tennessee Titans 321 6.8 86 1.6 357

Sept. 20 @ Chicago Bears 232 5.9 43 2.4 275

2008 AVERAGES 157 5.4 80 3.3 237

Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com.
First published on September 22, 2009 at 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09265...#ixzz0Rpowj3GA
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Old 09-22-2009, 08:03 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

I was complaining about the lack of serious pressure on Cutler because as good as he is, he doesn't usually deal with pressure all that well. In the Tites game, we had a QB (Collins) who is about as mobile as a stump and we didn't pressure him much either.

I have every confidence that Papa Lebeau will be spending long hours in his laboratory concocting new schemes to get the most out of his talented pass rushers. That is a huge component of what this D thrives on.
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Old 09-22-2009, 08:10 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

Stupid column as usual by Cook.

Blame the D when the O is averaging about 13 points per game right now?

The pass rush is fine. Watch the game and don't look at stats, especially sacks. They had like 18 pressures against Tennessee and didn't do bad against the Bears either. Also consider that The Steelers faced 2 of the hardest QB's in the NFL to sack in their first 2 games. Jay Cutler was sacked just 11 times last season in Denver. Kerry Collins was sacked just 8 times last season in Tennessee. Big Ben got sacked more in 1 game against the Eagles last year than Collins did all season.

He also makes getting beat by Jay Cutler out to be embarrassing. Why? Because he had 1 bad game on the road against the Packers? He's still a Pro Bowl QB and it was/is unrealistic to think the Steelers were going to go on the road and dominate him, especially without TP.
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Old 09-22-2009, 08:22 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

Sometimes I think we take such pride in our defense that we are unwilling to sse some of the true realities that exist. Bottom line is that we are not getting to the quarterback the way we normally do and Cook makes valid points regarding Harrison and Woodley. In their defense, JH gets held nearly 2 of every 3 passing plays and I think it has been called once.

There is no question that TP's absence was obvious on Sunday. I cannot help but wonder if the D would not be better with Foote still inside and Timmons spelling Woodley at times at OLB. LT clearly is better in coverage and has more than one move to the QB. Foote is the only bright spot right now for the woeful Lions. He was a maniac on Sunday. I know contract issues were the heart of his departure, but I think it is wrong to overlook his impact on the defense.

At the end of the day, I have confidence that DL will get things going for us.
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Old 09-22-2009, 08:36 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteelStang View Post
Sometimes I think we take such pride in our defense that we are unwilling to sse some of the true realities that exist. Bottom line is that we are not getting to the quarterback the way we normally do and Cook makes valid points regarding Harrison and Woodley. In their defense, JH gets held nearly 2 of every 3 passing plays and I think it has been called once.

There is no question that TP's absence was obvious on Sunday. I cannot help but wonder if the D would not be better with Foote still inside and Timmons spelling Woodley at times at OLB. LT clearly is better in coverage and has more than one move to the QB. Foote is the only bright spot right now for the woeful Lions. He was a maniac on Sunday. I know contract issues were the heart of his departure, but I think it is wrong to overlook his impact on the defense.

At the end of the day, I have confidence that DL will get things going for us.
No, he wanted his release because he didn't want his role on the defense to diminish anymore than it already had. He knew LT was pushing him out of his ILB spot and that if not in training camp, sometime in the season.

Foote wouldn't be helping this defense right now because what killed us was Cutler's short passes and Foote was a liability in pass coverage.
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Old 09-22-2009, 11:14 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

It just goes to show you just how mcuh Troy means to this defense. He is an absolute moneter when he is healthy and on the field.
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Old 09-22-2009, 11:20 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

Quote:
A better pass rush would help. The Steelers have just two sacks after the first two games, none by outside linebackers/sackmasters James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
If they enforced the holding rules more stringently like they said they were going to this season, maybe, just maybe, Woodley and Harrison would stop getting literally tackled on every damn play. Just a thought.
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Old 09-22-2009, 11:22 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

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Originally Posted by SteelStang View Post
I cannot help but wonder if the D would not be better with Foote still inside and Timmons spelling Woodley at times at OLB....Foote is the only bright spot right now for the woeful Lions. He was a maniac on Sunday. I know contract issues were the heart of his departure, but I think it is wrong to overlook his impact on the defense.
Easy for a good player to look great when he is surrounded by nothing but suck.
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Old 09-22-2009, 11:25 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

If Santonio catches that ball, the defense's grades are probably a lot better.
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Old 09-22-2009, 12:45 PM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers' defense deserves bulk of blame for loss to Bears

So ... we hold them to under 20 points, the kicker misses two field goals that could have tied or won the game ... the offense drops a potential TD pass to end one drive, can't punch it in from inside the 10 on another, and gets intercepted at the goal line on a third ... and this is all somehow the defense's fault?

Looks more to me like it was a perfect storm of teamwide mistakes, on top of which we were unlucky. The defense was only one small part of it.
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