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Old 11-01-2011, 06:55 AM   #1
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Default On the Steelers: No. 1 defense, and shot at redemption, next for improving passing ga

On the Steelers: No. 1 defense, and shot at redemption, next for improving passing game
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


That Steelers passing game that has become more prolific than any other in their modern history is about to undergo another test -- and a chance for redemption.

The Baltimore Ravens bring the NFL's top defense to Heinz Field Sunday night and the No. 3 pass defense in the league. They will try to do what the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals have not the past two weeks -- hold Ben Roethlisberger under 360 yards passing.

Roethlisberger is fifth in the league with 2,302 yards and the passing game ranks seventh in the NFL this week, the offense ninth overall.

The Steelers will be put to a severe test by a defense that throttled them in the opener as Baltimore won, 35-7. Roethlisberger managed 280 yards but threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles on four of his sacks, and the team turned the ball over seven times.

"It was embarrassing," said Mike Wallace, fourth in the NFL with 800 yards receiving. "To say the least it was embarrassing. But it's a new week, a new part of the season. It's the second half of the season. It's going to be an interesting game."

The opener was not. The Ravens ran out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead and piled it on from there, committing no turnovers. The Steelers had only 66 yards rushing, the Ravens 170. Ray Rice became only the second back in 51 regular-season games to top 100 yards against the Steelers.

The Steelers defense was described after that game as "old, slow and done," by TV analyst and former player Warren Sapp. But that defense, too, has rebounded and ranks No. 2 in the league overall, No. 1 against the pass.

They performed the near impossible Sunday, holding Tom Brady to fewer than 200 yards passing and his New England Patriots to just 17 points. But that No. 1-ranked Ravens defense will look nothing like the one the Steelers faced Sunday -- the Patriots are last in the NFL in passing defense and overall defense.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who designed a game plan that produced 427 yards against New England and 29 first downs, will go back to the drawing board for Baltimore.

"Coach Arians, man, he will come out with a game plan next week and if it's run, run, run, that's what it's going to be," Wallace said. "We're a multidimensional team, we can run, we can pass, we can do whatever, whatever we have to do depending on the team we play against."

This version of the Steelers, though, no longer can run, run, run, or at least it has not been willing to do so. Through half a season, they have run only 40.5 percent of the time -- less than any offense in modern Steelers history, or since at least Chuck Noll became their coach in 1969.

Rashard Mendenhall leads them with 421 yards on 107 carries. They rank in the middle of the pack, No. 14, with 923 yards rushing, and their average per game of 115.4 ranks 19th. Still, Mendenhall gained 70 yards Sunday on just 13 carries, complementing Roethlisberger's big game passing.

The Steelers have rebounded from that inauspicious start and a 2-2 record to 6-2, the best in the AFC. But Baltimore is tied for second, both in the AFC and in the AFC North, at 5-2 and has that big opening number in its pocket.

"I'd like to think we've gotten a little better since then," tight end Heath Miller said. "That's our goal, to get better every week. We're making strides. I don't think we're there yet."
Harrison unlikely to play

Not long after his agent said "unless something happens, he will play this week," linebacker James Harrison said he will not.

Harrison, in a Twitter message Monday evening, said: "Saw the doctor today. Looks like I won't be playing this weekend but at least I'm cleared for practice."

Earlier, agent Bill Parise said, "I think that is possible" that Harrison would play against Baltimore.

"Unless something happens, he will play this week," Parise said.

Parise said Harrison's eye improved tremendously from Thursday to Saturday and the four-time All-Pro linebacker wanted to play but doctors would not let him.

The bone around Harrison's eye was broken late in a 17-10 loss Oct. 2 at Houston. Lawrence Timmons moved over from inside linebacker to take his place at right outside linebacker the past four games.

Harrison went on to write on his Facebook page: "Worst case scenario, I'll be back after the bye for sure."

If Harrison does not play against Baltimore, the Steelers likely will have three of their four starting linebackers out. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who leads the AFC with nine sacks, has a left hamstring injury that likely will keep him out, and James Farrior has a torn calf muscle that could keep him out another month.
Missed that one

The safety the Steelers scored with eight seconds left when Troy Polamalu punched the ball through New England's end zone from the Patriots 15 should have been canceled and a penalty called on the play.

NFL rules prohibit a player to punch or kick a loose ball toward an opponent's end zone. The penalty is 10 yards. But the officials did not call a penalty and let the safety stand.
Quick hit

The Steelers re-signed rookie defensive end Corbin Bryant to their practice squad. They released him Saturday after one game on their 53-man roster to make room to sign linebacker Mortty Ivy. Bryant had been on their practice squad previous to joining the 53-man roster for their game against Arizona when three defensive linemen were out with injuries.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11305...#ixzz1cSCsQkhC
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Old 11-01-2011, 09:18 AM   #2
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Default Re: On the Steelers: No. 1 defense, and shot at redemption, next for improving passin

3 LBs out!!! Man, gonna be a tough climb...
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Old 11-01-2011, 09:31 AM   #3
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Default Re: On the Steelers: No. 1 defense, and shot at redemption, next for improving passin

"The standard is the standard."
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Old 11-01-2011, 10:10 AM   #4
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Default Re: On the Steelers: No. 1 defense, and shot at redemption, next for improving passin

Quote:
Originally Posted by MDSteel15 View Post
3 LBs out!!! Man, gonna be a tough climb...
Ain't no mountain high enough!
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