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Old 12-31-2011, 06:11 AM   #1
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Default Run down: Steelers rush defense not up to standard

Run down: Steelers rush defense not up to standard

By Mark Kaboly
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, December 31, 2011

One thing about Dick LeBeau: He knows all about statistics, especially when it pertains to his defense.

The Steelers' Hall of Fame defensive coordinator can just about recite every statistical category regarding his defense, whether it was from this year or any other year.

So when LeBeau says he's not too concerned about the falloff of his rushing defense heading into Sunday's regular-season finale at Cleveland, you tend to take him at his word.

"I think we have done a good job against the run," LeBeau said. "We have done better jobs in the past. But total defense, we are playing pretty good."

Statistically, the aspect that LeBeau prides himself in the most hasn't matched the team's previous standards. The Steelers are ninth in the league in rushing yards per game, allowing just more than 100 on average.

A LeBeau-led defense has never been lower than third at season's end. They are allowing 40 rushing yards a game more than last year, have given up nearly as many 100-yard rushers in 15 games than they have over the previous seven years and have allowed three times as many 15-yard runs this year than they did all of last season.

"You are talking about one little part of the defense," LeBeau said. "You can pick out this little thing or that little thing. You are kicking a dead horse, my friend. We are leading the league in defense. If we have to get better, 31 other teams have to get better, too."

The Steelers are tops in the league in total defense thanks to pass coverage that is 42 yards per game better than last year. That, however, hasn't masked the fact the run defense has been lacking.

"Last year, we were run-stopping aliens," safety Ryan Clark said. "We acknowledge that it does have to get better. We know it has to get better. The time to correct it is over. It has to be done now."

Stopping the rush

The Steelers' rushing defense under the direction of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau since his return in 2004:

Year Rushes Yards Avg. NFL rank 15-yard gains
2004 357 1,299 81.2 first 16
2005 402 1,376 86.0 third 11
2006 408 1,412 88.3 third 8
2007 361 1,438 89.9 third 16
2008 390 1,284 80.3 second 4
2009 372 1,438 89.9 third 13
2010 333 1,004 62.8 first 5
2011* 409 1,627 101.6 ninth 16
* -- Projected

The Steelers flirted with becoming the best run defense the NFL has ever seen in a single season before missing out by a mere 34 yards last year. Such a high standard makes living up to that nearly impossible.

"That doesn't happen. You can't compare anything to last year," Clark said.

Even though LeBeau downplays it, the players know they have to be better at stopping the run.

"It's our style of ball. That's how we make teams one-dimensional, so we can attack the quarterback," safety Troy Polamalu said. "If you don't stop the run, you don't allow guys like James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley to rush the quarterback."

The Steelers are on pace for the fewest sacks since 2003.

"It hasn't been one of our better years against the run," linebacker James Farrior said. "We understand that. We still feel like we have a good defense, though."

Lack of personnel has been a problem, too. Defensive end Aaron Smith has missed the majority of the season, Woodley has missed five games and parts of two others, and Harrison was out for five games.

"It is a combination of everything," Harrison said. "We aren't fitting it up right ... all that stuff."

Giving up long runs also has been an issue. Last year, they allowed three runs of 15 yards or longer. This year, they have given up 15 of those rushes, and that's not including a 76-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice that was called back for holding.

"We haven't been fitting right, guys missing tackles," Farrior said. "Good defenses don't allow that."

Four of those long runs went for at least 25 yards. The Steelers haven't allowed that many long rushes in five years.

"Some of that is because of bad tackling in the secondary, I know a few cases from myself," Polamalu said.

An improvement in rush defense will be imperative, especially if the Steelers go on the road against possible playoff teams Houston, Denver or Oakland -- the top three rushing teams in the AFC.

"If you run the ball in the postseason, you can win," Farrior said. "If you can't stop the run, you are going to be in for a long day."

Mark Kaboly can be reached at mkaboly@dailynewsemail.com or 412-664-9161.



Read more: Run down: Steelers rush defense not up to standard - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbur...#ixzz1i76Ql8xC
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Old 12-31-2011, 10:30 AM   #2
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Default Re: Run down: Steelers rush defense not up to standard

the great thing here is that EVER player takes responsibility and puts the honus on themself to get better.

not a single one questions the scheme.

so you take casey hampton off the field for 40 snaps a game to run nickle and add a 3rd cb and while the pass game improves in a league that is more geared up towards passing, the rush defense suffers.

to make it even more clear, casey hampton, our best run stuffer isnt even on the field half the time.

arent we all glad we have the local media to explaing these simple and basic concepts?

football 101.
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Old 12-31-2011, 12:24 PM   #3
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Default Re: Run down: Steelers rush defense not up to standard

Quote:
Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
the great thing here is that EVER player takes responsibility and puts the honus on themself to get better.

not a single one questions the scheme.

so you take casey hampton off the field for 40 snaps a game to run nickle and add a 3rd cb and while the pass game improves in a league that is more geared up towards passing, the rush defense suffers.

to make it even more clear, casey hampton, our best run stuffer isnt even on the field half the time.

arent we all glad we have the local media to explaing these simple and basic concepts?

football 101.
This is very true...
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Old 12-31-2011, 12:35 PM   #4
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Default Re: Run down: Steelers rush defense not up to standard

Quote:
Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
the great thing here is that EVER player takes responsibility and puts the honus on themself to get better.

not a single one questions the scheme.

so you take casey hampton off the field for 40 snaps a game to run nickle and add a 3rd cb and while the pass game improves in a league that is more geared up towards passing, the rush defense suffers.

to make it even more clear, casey hampton, our best run stuffer isnt even on the field half the time.

arent we all glad we have the local media to explaing these simple and basic concepts?

football 101.
You bring up a point that drives me crazy during a game. Take off 2 starters to bring out 2 backup db's equals a 3rd and long conversion. I say it every game. I would rather see 3rd and short then 3rd and long.
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Old 12-31-2011, 12:49 PM   #5
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Default Re: Run down: Steelers rush defense not up to standard

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Originally Posted by Whodis View Post
You bring up a point that drives me crazy during a game. Take off 2 starters to bring out 2 backup db's equals a 3rd and long conversion. I say it every game. I would rather see 3rd and short then 3rd and long.
while it may be madenning, its almost impossible to argue with the results. we dont get beat deep and teams cant take the top of our defense. we cant be giving up too many 3rd and longs because we are #1 in total yards allowed. we are second in the leage in total points allowed and really stiffen up in the redzone pushing teams back and forcing them into FG attempts.

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Old 12-31-2011, 12:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: Run down: Steelers rush defense not up to standard

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Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
while it may be madenning, its almost impossible to argue with the results. we dont get beat deep and teams cant take the top of our defense. we cant be giving up too many 3rd and longs because we are #1 in total yards allowed. we are second in the leage in total points allowed and really stiffen up in the redzone pushing teams back and forcing them into FG attempts.

This^
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