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Old 11-02-2011, 07:59 AM   #1
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Default How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 00:30
Written by Bob Smizik
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How long can a team continue to win with injuries to multiple important players?

We may find out Sunday when the injury-ravaged Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens.

Although coach Mike Tomlin pronounced only offensive guard Doug Legursky out for the game, it is widely believed that linebackers James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior will not play. That’s three Pro Bowl linebackers missing from the lineup. While Farrior is no longer a player of that caliber, Harrison and Woodley are.

The Steelers have not missed a beat without Harrison, who has been out for the past four games -- all wins. That is truly remarkable because Harrison remains at or near the top of his game and his replacement, Lawrence Timmons, while playing well in other areas, has provided nothing approaching the pressure Harrison puts on quarterbacks.

Someone in the media suggested recently that Harrison is one-dimensional. That is true only if the dimension is mayhem.

Despite getting more attention with Harrison out, Woodley has stepped up his previously slumping game and was excellent before being injured in the second half against New England.

Chris Carter will replace Woodley. Stevenson Sylvester, as he did Sunday, will start in place of Farrior. Larry Foote will start inside with Sylvester and Timmons remains at right outside linebacker.

The primary and possibly only backup may be Mortty Ivy, plucked from the practice squad last week. Jason Worilds, after an extended absence with injury, returns to practice today and could be ready to go Sunday.

Tomlin said the team will not sign any new linebackers and will improvise -- Brett Keisel playing on the outside -- if necessary.

The Steelers will be without three of their starting four linebackers and the fourth will be out of position.

That is a less than ideal situation, What is made a bit more palatable is the fact the Ravens offense has been disappointing this season. Its high point was scoring 35 against the Steelers in the opener -- when all the defensive players were healthy. But their offense is 14th in the NFL in yards; Joe Flacco is 27th in passer rating (75.4) and 31st in percentage (51.8). Running back Ray Rice, who usually plays very well against the Steelers, is 17th in the league in yards per game (69.9).

Surely, the unit that stuffed the New England offense -- with Woodley -- is good enough to handle what Baltimore brings. It should, but at some point a team cannot continue to play well with so many starters out. It defies logic.

There is an outside chance Harrison might play, and that is pure speculation based on this:

Harrison’s agent is Bill Parise: On Monday he was quoted as saying this: ``I think it is possible’’ that Harrison would play. ``Unless something happens, he will play this week.’’

Later in the day, on Twitter, Harrison said, ``Saw the doctor today. Looks like I won't be playing this weekend but at least I'm cleared for practice.''

It is unusual for players to return to practice and be ruled out for the next game six days away, although Harrison injury, a fractured orbital bone, is delicate and unusual.

Still, no one should be astonished if there is word late in the week that Harrison might be available.

The Steelers sure could use him.
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Old 11-02-2011, 08:52 AM   #2
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

No concern here. It's not like they are playing a prolific offense (Ravens) this week. Just minimize the big plays. Or the "splash plays" as Tomlin puts it. And just like last week, the offense needs to step up and put points on the board.
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Old 11-02-2011, 10:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

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No concern here. It's not like they are playing a prolific offense (Ravens) this week. Just minimize the big plays. Or the "splash plays" as Tomlin puts it. And just like last week, the offense needs to step up and put points on the board.
Just don't forget that you played a defense that gives up the most yards per game in the NFL and you will be playing a team that has given up the least yards per game in the NFL. The Ravens defense is going up against an O-line that has let up the most sacks in the NFL. Be careful out there.

If the Ravens offense can keep Joe upright and not running for his life (no easy task) and let Rice do what he does best, the Ravens have an excellent chance to put these steelers away.
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Old 11-02-2011, 10:44 AM   #4
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

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Just don't forget that you played a defense that gives up the most yards per game in the NFL and you will be playing a team that has given up the least yards per game in the NFL. The Ravens defense is going up against an O-line that has let up the most sacks in the NFL. Be careful out there.

If the Ravens offense can keep Joe upright and not running for his life (no easy task) and let Rice do what he does best, the Ravens have an excellent chance to put these steelers away.
Only 3 Raven players I worry about and would take on the Steelers anyday. That is Rice, Suggs & Ngata. Contain and/or avoid these guys, Steelers win.
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Old 11-02-2011, 10:46 AM   #5
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

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Just don't forget that you played a defense that gives up the most yards per game in the NFL and you will be playing a team that has given up the least yards per game in the NFL. The Ravens defense is going up against an O-line that has let up the most sacks in the NFL. Be careful out there.

If the Ravens offense can keep Joe upright and not running for his life (no easy task) and let Rice do what he does best, the Ravens have an excellent chance to put these steelers away.
Don't forget that regardless of where these teams rank in the stats and what their records are when they meet, it's typically a knock down, drag 'em out type football game that leaves both sides of the fans with no finger nails and nubs for fingers!

I'd say good luck, but to be honest I don't mean it. I hope it's the reverse of what happened in week 1. I hope it's so embarrassing that Haurbaugh doesn't even do a post-game interview.
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Old 11-02-2011, 11:07 AM   #6
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

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Just don't forget that you played a defense that gives up the most yards per game in the NFL and you will be playing a team that has given up the least yards per game in the NFL. The Ravens defense is going up against an O-line that has let up the most sacks in the NFL. Be careful out there.

If the Ravens offense can keep Joe upright and not running for his life (no easy task) and let Rice do what he does best, the Ravens have an excellent chance to put these steelers away.
Well, since we're playing that game...how bout that number one defense losing to a last in the league offense in the Jags, or a 25th placed Titans offense? In fact, the only two teams the Ravens defense has faced that is actually worth a damn (and I'm stretching at 19th or above) on offense are the Texans and the week 1 Steelers. The Steelers offense has already faced 4 top 15 defenses.

That said, I know the Ravens defense is good. Everyone knows that. Ravens and Steelers are almost always in the top 5, or even 3 across the board, and they're usually pretty close in stats. Just thought you might like to know that this argument could go against you as well...actually even more than it does against the Steelers...as the Ravens defense has faced almost nothing but creampuff offenses.
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Old 11-02-2011, 11:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

As long as the younger players keep stepping up I feel confident that we can do this...
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Old 11-02-2011, 11:35 AM   #8
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

Smith and Farrior out has helped, especially Smith. The only injury that is actually hindering us is Harrison. This is the first game where we are actually playing with severe defensive injuries.
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Old 11-02-2011, 11:43 AM   #9
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

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Well, since we're playing that game...how bout that number one defense losing to a last in the league offense in the Jags, or a 25th placed Titans offense? In fact, the only two teams the Ravens defense has faced that is actually worth a damn (and I'm stretching at 19th or above) on offense are the Texans and the week 1 Steelers. The Steelers offense has already faced 4 top 15 defenses.

That said, I know the Ravens defense is good. Everyone knows that. Ravens and Steelers are almost always in the top 5, or even 3 across the board, and they're usually pretty close in stats. Just thought you might like to know that this argument could go against you as well...actually even more than it does against the Steelers...as the Ravens defense has faced almost nothing but creampuff offenses.
Yeah, I know we could throw stats at each other all day. What I like about this rivalry the most is that the players really want to beat the crap out of each other. Makes for really good football as we have seen, except for week 1. No moral wins in this game. The Ravens need this win just as bad if not more than the Steelers do. Then again, who cares what the Steelers need.
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Old 11-02-2011, 11:47 AM   #10
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Default Re: How long can injury-riddled defense continue to play at high level?

they can play at a high level as long as the replacements continue to step up
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