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Old 11-13-2011, 09:10 AM   #1
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Default Bires: Picking Dalton apart a priority

Bires: Picking Dalton apart a priority
By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com | Posted: Saturday, November 12, 2011 6:27 pm


It’s Week 10 and the Steelers are on pace to shatter a dubious NFL record. Considering the way they historically play defense, it’s mind-boggling that they only have four takeaways.

That’s 13 less than they forced a year ago at this time when they were en route to 35.

Why the decline?

It’s one of the great mysteries in the NFL this year.

Certainly, the Steelers are puzzled. That last-minute breakdown last week against Baltimore aside, they’re still playing fairly well on defense. No. 3 in total yards. No. 3 vs. the pass. No. 6 vs. the run. No. 5 in fewest points allowed per game.

But they are tied for last with the 1-7 Miami Dolphins in takeaways with only two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Last year when the Steelers picked off 21 passes, no less than nine different defenders had interceptions. So far this year, there are only two - free safety Ryan Clark and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

It’s no surprise that cornerback Ike Taylor doesn’t have a pick. He’s a solid cover corner but has hands of stone. That’s why he’s a defensive back and not a wide receiver. In nine years as a pro he has just 11 interceptions. If he’d have held on to balls he should have caught over the years, he’d have at least 22 picks if not more.

On the other hand, it is surprising that safety Troy Polamalu hasn’t intercepted a pass yet. He had seven last year en route to earning NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors and seven in 2008.

Defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau is mystified by the low number of takeaways. But he’s hardly in panic mode. He believes turnovers come in bunches and is optimistic that today is the day the Steelers (6-3) will get a bunch.

It won’t be easy. The Bengals (6-2) have done a marvelous job taking care of the football. They’re tied for fourth in the NFL in fewest giveaways with eight.

Quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown only seven interceptions, or one less than Ben Roethlisberger. The Cincinnati offense has yet to lose a fumble. The team’s lone lost fumble was by Nate Clements on a kick return.

However, Dalton is a rookie. And since LeBeau returned in 2004 for his second stint as defensive coordinator, rookie QBs have gone 1-12 against the Steelers.

To be sure, there were some non-descript rookies the Steelers beat during that span such as Kyle Orton, John Beck, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye and Jimmy Clausen. And the teams the aforementioned played for weren’t always that competitive.

Still, rookie quarterbacks against the Steelers since 2004 have thrown only 8 TD passes compared to 15 interceptions, and they’ve been sacked 50 times.

“I keep saying that this is the week we’re going to turn it around,” LeBeau said of the takeaway drought. “Maybe this is the week.”

LeBeau is planning for it to happen today. Dalton handles himself quite well for a rookie. He’s playing behind a solid offensive line. But it’s the Steelers plan to stuff running back Cedric Benson and force Dalton to beat them with his arm. They plan to confuse Dalton with exotic schemes and pressure him with blitzes.

Keeping the Bengals out of the end zone is obviously the first priority. Adding to the meager takeaway total is second on the to-do-list.
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Old 11-13-2011, 09:16 AM   #2
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Default Re: Bires: Picking Dalton apart a priority

Lebeau will dial up a game plan that will not only confuse, but it will frustrate the young Dalton. The run will be non-existent for the Bungles today, I look for Troy to make a big play ala the Indy game!!!!!
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