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Old 08-18-2010, 05:53 PM   #1
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Default Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

LATROBE, Pa. (AP)—The Steelers are dealing with so many issues during a training camp that’s about to end, one of their major worries sometimes gets overlooked.

Except by secondary coach Ray Horton.

The Steelers are busy enough while trying to find enough playing time for multiple quarterbacks during camp, fixing their running game and patching up their offensive line. If they don’t get their secondary straightened out, however, these other problems might not seem as urgent.

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A year after having the league’s best pass defense while winning the Super Bowl, the Steelers fell to No. 16 last season. They gave up the most passing yards in the league while leading in games, and the third most yards in the fourth quarter. They made only eight interceptions, one fewer than Troy Polamalu(notes) had by himself in 2008.

Polamalu’s lengthy injury absences played a major role in the Steelers’ falloff—he played in only three full games, all of them victories. Still, Polamalu’s health wasn’t the secondary’s only issue.

According to Football Outsiders’ defensive charts, Steelers cornerbacks Ike Taylor(notes) and William Gay(notes) were two of the NFL’s five worst defenders in first downs and touchdowns allowed, with Taylor permitting a combined 40 and Gay 36.

The Steelers brought back former starter Bryant McFadden(notes) following one season with Arizona, working a draft day deal to get him. With Arizona, he ranked third among cornerbacks with 37 first downs and touchdowns permitted.

No doubt the Steelers weren’t the same without one of the NFL’s best safeties for most of the season. But Polamalu can’t help cornerbacks when they’re in one-on-one coverage, as the Steelers’ corners often are in the 3-4 defense. Gay, who became a starter when McFadden signed with Arizona a year ago, didn’t have a good season—he knows it and his coach knows it.

“I think if you talked to William directly, he would say he became a little full of himself,” Horton said. “I’m sure he thought, `I’m here, I’ve arrived.’ I think he’s more humble this year and he’s working hard.”

The Steelers also re-signed safety Ryan Clark(notes) to a contract that pays him an average of $3.5 million per year over four seasons. Clark seemed to be signing with Miami, but a phone call from Polamalu helped persuade him to stay.

Clark won’t say he had a poor season in 2009 without Polamalu, but admittedly tried to do too much to compensate for the absence of one of the NFL’s best playmakers. Polamalu hurt his left knee in the season opener against Tennessee, missed four games, returned to play three, then reinjured the same knee against Cincinnati on Nov. 15 and didn’t play again the rest of the season.

The Steelers lost that Bengals game and the next four without him.

“It’s good to be back, and be healthy,” Polamalu said.

It’s good for Horton to see Polamalu back, too, if only because he knows how much it improves his secondary. While Polamalu is one of the best players at his position in the league, Horton said Polamalu has rededicated himself during training camp to improving. The Steelers finish up camp Thursday at Saint Vincent College.

“If you ask him, I don’t think Troy will say he had a good year last year,” Horton said. “That’s our mentality. If we think we’re there, we’re foolish. Does Troy need to get better? Uh, huh. Otherwise, we wouldn’t let him come to practice, he’d just go home to California and show up for games.”

It’s a secondary that’s getting older, too, even without former starter Deshea Townsend(notes), who wasn’t brought back after 11 seasons. Taylor and Clark are 30, Polamalu is 29 and McFadden is 28. Clark and McFadden will have birthdays during the season.

The age factor is one reason why 2009 draft picks Keenan Lewis(notes) and Joe Burnett(notes) figure to play more after mostly being on special teams last season.

“We’re going to let the season speak for us on that,” said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who at 73 doesn’t like hearing that age matters. “I think this defense has an excellent blend of experience, middle-year guys and young guys. I think we will demonstrate that when we start playing.”


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Old 08-19-2010, 12:14 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

I think the best thing we can do as a team to make our secondary shine is to get pressure,pressure,pressure on other teams qb. If they only have 3 seconds to make a read- we'll be just fine unless we give our typical 15 yard cushion.
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Old 08-19-2010, 12:22 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

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I think the best thing we can do as a team to make our secondary shine is to get pressure,pressure,pressure on other teams qb. If they only have 3 seconds to make a read- we'll be just fine unless we give our typical 15 yard cushion.



3 seconds ?..Hillarious! Hell Ben would KILL to ever have 3 seconds in the pocket. I mean in the past 3 seasons, I can count the total number of times where Ben actually had 3 or more seconds in the pocket. Usually our 5-man O-Line and a RB to help block lets at least 2 defenders in on Ben in less than 1.5 seconds. And that's without Blitzing. Just a 4 or 5 man rush at best! 3 seconds,,,shoot....In Ben's wet dreams
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Old 08-19-2010, 08:48 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

That's all well & good talking about us improving the time Ben has- but most qb our defense pressures do not have the abilities Ben have- that's what makes him so great! I'm just saying if we improve our rush, most qbs who don't have the escapability skills that Ben does will make bad reads, thus making our secondary look better than it actually is. Maybe our new secondary coach will help, but if Lebeau can't teach them I don't know if anybody can.
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Old 08-20-2010, 03:12 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

>> Ike Taylor(notes) and William Gay(notes) were two of the NFL’s five worst defenders in first downs and touchdowns allowed, with Taylor permitting a combined 40 and Gay 36.

The Steelers brought back former starter Bryant McFadden(notes) following one season with Arizona, working a draft day deal to get him. With Arizona, he ranked third among cornerbacks with 37 first downs and touchdowns permitted.<<

So this means Gay was better than B-Mac???
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Old 08-20-2010, 05:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

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Originally Posted by truesteelerfan View Post
I think the best thing we can do as a team to make our secondary shine is to get pressure,pressure,pressure on other teams qb. If they only have 3 seconds to make a read- we'll be just fine unless we give our typical 15 yard cushion.

Exactly...We are old and slow in the middle. I think that has alot to do with it..!
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Old 08-20-2010, 09:20 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

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That's all well & good talking about us improving the time Ben has- but most qb our defense pressures do not have the abilities Ben have- that's what makes him so great! I'm just saying if we improve our rush, most qbs who don't have the escapability skills that Ben does will make bad reads, thus making our secondary look better than it actually is. Maybe our new secondary coach will help, but if Lebeau can't teach them I don't know if anybody can.
I tend to agree with this. I remember getting frustrated on many occassions last year with the lack of pressure on the QB. They could stand back there and go their reads 10 times if they wanted too.

The problem certainly isn't with Harrison & Woodley, so it must be up the middle.
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Old 08-20-2010, 11:04 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

^ I agree, the middle just wasnt getting it done last year
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