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NKySteeler
08-27-2008, 12:55 PM
A rather obvious statement for an article title, and a very real issue...
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Sacks are Steelers' priority
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer
dlolley@observer-reporter.com

PITTSBURGH - Much of the focus in the offseason was on the 47 sacks recorded against Pittsburgh last season. But it could have easily been the Steelers' own lack of a pass rush.

The Steelers had just 36 sacks, their fewest since 2003 and the third-fewest total since 1990.

Rectifying that in 2008 is a priority.

Through three preseason games, the results have been pretty good. With one preseason game remaining, Pittsburgh has 10 sacks, with eight coming from front-line players in limited playing time.

"We've got some guys individually that are rushing well," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "They haven't played complete games. You envision those guys putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback."

Increased roles for second-year linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley have made the biggest difference. The return of a healthy Aaron Smith at defensive end, and Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison now having a full season as a starter under his belt also helps.

"I think LaMarr Woodley has created a lot of pressure in the time that he's played. James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Aaron Smith (each have) two sacks," Tomlin said. "When you look at the performance of those men, project it over the course of four quarters, I like where it is."

Woodley, who takes over at left outside linebacker for Clark Haggans, thinks there is no limit to the kind of havoc the defense can create this season.

"We can be real good, probably one of the best," said Woodley, who had four sacks in limited playing time as a rookie.

The Steelers have been doing a good job in the preseason of winning individual battles at the line of scrimmage. They have blitzed on occasion, particularly with Timmons up the middle, but many of the sacks have come from players winning those one-on-one battles.

Once defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau starts breaking down film of opponents and devising ways of attacking the weak points, might things get really bad for opponents?

"When we start putting a package together and really start getting after people, it's going to be a whole other defense," said Woodley.

"You try to find a weakness or things you think you can take advantage of once you sit down and start watching film. When you find that, you want to hit those spots and expose the offense. I think we will go out there this season and do that."

Oviedo
08-27-2008, 01:53 PM
Absolutely right. If we can't improve our sacks significantly then we should not be playing the 3-4 and should go to the 4-3. Pressure on the opposing QB is essential. We must get back to our sack totals in 2001 and 2002. We aren't doing now whatever we did then. Totals since 2000:

2000: 39
2001: 55
2002: 50
2003: 35
2004: 41
2005: 47
2006: 39
2007: 36

36 sacks just plain sucks.

SteelTorch
08-27-2008, 03:49 PM
Absolutely right. If we can't improve our sacks significantly then we should not be playing the 3-4 and should go to the 4-3. Pressure on the opposing QB is essential. We must get back to our sack totals in 2001 and 2002. We aren't doing now whatever we did then. Totals since 2000:

2000: 39
2001: 55
2002: 50
2003: 35
2004: 41
2005: 47
2006: 39
2007: 36

36 sacks just plain sucks.
Argh! Why all this talk about going to a 4-3?! There's no reason to go to a 4-3, especially in today's game! The Blitzbergh defense of the 90's was a 3-4; are you forgetting that?

It's not the system, it's the players, specifically on the D-line. A 4-3 does not equal better pressure on the QB. The only reason the Giants got so many sack numbers is because they had the right players for it.

NKySteeler
08-27-2008, 03:54 PM
It's not the system, it's the players, specifically on the D-line. A 4-3 does not equal better pressure on the QB. The only reason the Giants got so many sack numbers is because they had the right players for it.

Agreed to a certain extent....

Our 3-4 of the 90s was more the exception than the rule... Nowadays, more teams are either running it, or are used to it. While we may not have the players of yesteryear, we also have the handicap of more teams being familiar with the scheme... LeBeau is great on coming up with Blitz packages, but it is just not as much of a "surprise" as it used to be, IMHO.

AkronSteel
08-27-2008, 04:52 PM
It's not the system, it's the players, specifically on the D-line. A 4-3 does not equal better pressure on the QB. The only reason the Giants got so many sack numbers is because they had the right players for it.

Agreed to a certain extent....

Our 3-4 of the 90s was more the exception than the rule... Nowadays, more teams are either running it, or are used to it. While we may not have the players of yesteryear, we also have the handicap of more teams being familiar with the scheme... LeBeau is great on coming up with Blitz packages, but it is just not as much of a "surprise" as it used to be, IMHO.

I don't think having more 3-4 D's has anything to do with Lebeau not being as successful. I just think that the fact that there are more 3-4 defenses then that gives the Steelers alot less players to choose from. We don't have a Lloyd or Greene on this D. Heck I don't even know if we have a player equal to a young Joe P. I think that the level of talent on the D is not equal to what it was in the 90's, thats the issue.

Now saying that, I think the team will register 46 this year. Woodley will be a force from the Left side and teams will have trouble choosing between Wood and Silverback, and who they will chip on. Throwing LT's ability to rush from the middle will make a big difference.

I sure hope we see alot less of Troy being thrown into battles against 300 pounders.

NKySteeler
08-27-2008, 04:57 PM
I don't think having more 3-4 D's has anything to do with Lebeau not being as successful. I just think that the fact that there are more 3-4 defenses then that gives the Steelers alot less players to choose from.

...Good point.... Hadn't even thought of that...

Oviedo
08-27-2008, 06:53 PM
It's not the system, it's the players, specifically on the D-line. A 4-3 does not equal better pressure on the QB. The only reason the Giants got so many sack numbers is because they had the right players for it.

Agreed to a certain extent....

Our 3-4 of the 90s was more the exception than the rule... Nowadays, more teams are either running it, or are used to it. While we may not have the players of yesteryear, we also have the handicap of more teams being familiar with the scheme... LeBeau is great on coming up with Blitz packages, but it is just not as much of a "surprise" as it used to be, IMHO.

I don't think having more 3-4 D's has anything to do with Lebeau not being as successful. I just think that the fact that there are more 3-4 defenses then that gives the Steelers alot less players to choose from. We don't have a Lloyd or Greene on this D. Heck I don't even know if we have a player equal to a young Joe P. I think that the level of talent on the D is not equal to what it was in the 90's, thats the issue.

Now saying that, I think the team will register 46 this year. Woodley will be a force from the Left side and teams will have trouble choosing between Wood and Silverback, and who they will chip on. Throwing LT's ability to rush from the middle will make a big difference.

I sure hope we see alot less of Troy being thrown into battles against 300 pounders.

My point is exactly what you said, teams see the 3-4 all the time so their protection is designed for it and it is harder to get the right players than it was 10 years ago. With more teams running the 3-4 the resource pool you have to find DEs that fit and LBs that fit has been mined very thin by many more teams. The reason we have a 30+ DE is because it is very hard to find the right type of DL that can play the 3-4.

I have long contended that it is "easier" to get DL that fit a 4-3 and that allows you to have a ore effective rotation. I think if we had been running a 4-3 we would have a lot more younger DL because it is an easier transition.

We were innovators going to the 3-4 and the rest of the league followed. I just think that it may be time to lead the way in another direction.

NKySteeler
08-27-2008, 07:35 PM
I have long contended that it is "easier" to get DL that fit a 4-3 and that allows you to have a ore effective rotation. I think if we had been running a 4-3 we would have a lot more younger DL because it is an easier transition.

We were innovators going to the 3-4 and the rest of the league followed. I just think that it may be time to lead the way in another direction.

Question for you O...

Are you saying that we should permanently move to the 4-3 or lead in some other "direction", and if so, do you think LeBeau would be able to contrive as many innovative blitz packages in it? .... He's getting old, and undoubtably at the tail-end of his coaching career.

ikestops85
08-28-2008, 08:44 AM
We were innovators going to the 3-4 and the rest of the league followed. I just think that it may be time to lead the way in another direction.

Actually O we were one of the followers to the 3-4. NE was the first team to play the 3-4 as a base defense in 1973. The majority of NFL teams were using the 3-4 by 1980. The Steelers started using it in 1982. However, we are the only team to never have gone back to the 4-3 in that time. We were the only team using that defense in 2001. I remember being mad because Noll refused to move to a 'gimmick' defense.

As far as sacks go I don't care what defense you are playing you need the right personnel to make it work. I think this year with some new blood getting more playing time we will be able to get more consistent pressure on the QB.

frankthetank1
08-28-2008, 09:03 AM
i realize this is pretty much impossible but what if the steelers could go out and get guys on the front 7 that could play in both the 3-4 and 4-3. the defense would be unstopable and it would cause so much confusion to other teams.

Oviedo
08-28-2008, 09:17 AM
I have long contended that it is "easier" to get DL that fit a 4-3 and that allows you to have a ore effective rotation. I think if we had been running a 4-3 we would have a lot more younger DL because it is an easier transition.

We were innovators going to the 3-4 and the rest of the league followed. I just think that it may be time to lead the way in another direction.

Question for you O...

Are you saying that we should permanently move to the 4-3 or lead in some other "direction", and if so, do you think LeBeau would be able to contrive as many innovative blitz packages in it? .... He's getting old, and undoubtably at the tail-end of his coaching career.

I would advocate a move to the 4-3 because I think it is easier to get young players playing that defense effectively faster. The "LeBeau redshirt year" that players in our front 7 seem to have to go through to begin to understand this complex defense is IMO not in the best interests of the team.

I also think given the fact that we charge Troy into the middle of the OL is an indication that the schemes aren't working. We all saw how Tory was on the LOS and attempting to rush--he had no sacks. He got beat up and injured. It just doesn't work.

Hopefully Timmons and Woodley in the line up can make the difference and make the 3-4 work again. If not them I think there needs to be serious consideration for the 4-3.

steelblood
08-28-2008, 06:02 PM
Sacks are great, but collapsing the pocket and creating consistant pressure are the keys. Woodley and Aaron Smith will keep a QB hemmed in better than smaller guys who rely on Speed. Then, when we do blitz there won't be as many places to escape as there were last year when Haggans was sprinting ten yards up field to run around the OT.

NKySteeler
08-28-2008, 06:08 PM
Woodley and Aaron Smith will keep a QB hemmed in better than smaller guys who rely on Speed.

...And if Smith goes down with another injury this season?...............

I don't recall if it was in this thread or a different one (the "back" button doesn't work on this site for me... It deletes what I'm posting), but O was talking about needing to "beef" up the D-line with new blood.... I couldn't agree more, because the line we have is getting quite old and there is little quality depth...

Oviedo
08-29-2008, 10:10 AM
Woodley and Aaron Smith will keep a QB hemmed in better than smaller guys who rely on Speed.

...And if Smith goes down with another injury this season?...............

I don't recall if it was in this thread or a different one (the "back" button doesn't work on this site for me... It deletes what I'm posting), but O was talking about needing to "beef" up the D-line with new blood.... I couldn't agree more, because the line we have is getting quite old and there is little quality depth...

You are correct. My poiint was that we need to get younger players on the DL who can perform at a high level sooner. My hypothesis was that the 3-4 defense makes that harder than the 4-3 which is why we are where we are.

If you look at the current roster, Woodley, Kiesel and possibly Bruce Davis could easily step in at 4-3 DE. It just seems that it is very difficult to find 3-4 DEs who have both the size and quickness to play that position to Aaron Smith's level of skill. Look at Kiesel, everyone continues to be disappointed with him since Kimo left but we can't seem to find a replacement. NT may even be more difficult to find for the 3-4. How much longer can Casey do it and his back up is older than him.

Just saying that the 3-4 is a very effective defense with the right players, but manning it with the people you need to be a top defense just seems to get harder and harder.