View Full Version : Linebackers driving force in Steelers' impressive win

09-09-2008, 01:16 AM
Linebackers driving force in Steelers' impressive win
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

Perhaps it was not politically correct a day after the football world learned it must live without Tom Brady this season, but James Farrior compared quarterbacks to snakes yesterday.

"The quarterback is the key ingredient to any offense," the Steelers senior linebacker said. "It's like chopping off the head, the body's going to follow."

Sunday, the Steelers' defense tossed Houston's Matt Schaub onto what they hope will be a fast-growing pile of discards.

"Yeah, that's one," Farrior said. "We have 15 more to go. See how many we can stack up."

The Steelers got a leg up on what they hope will be a revitalized pass rush Sunday when they sacked Schaub five times and forced him into two interceptions and a lost fumble. They also were credited unofficially with six quarterback hurries.

That's what they meant when they spoke of improving a pass rush that managed 36 sacks last season and 39 in 2006, down from 45 in their Super Bowl year. Farrior, as captain of that defense, sounded like a proud father yesterday, especially with his linebackers, who accounted for 4 1/2 of those sacks.

James Harrison had three, LaMarr Woodley one and Farrior and end Nick Eason shared the other. Harrison and Woodley also had two hurries apiece, Farrior one and Eason the other.

There was more. Woodley had the first interception of his career and two tackles for losses, Harrison forced a fumble (that Woodley recovered) and had three tackles for losses.

While everyone on defense seemed to have a big debut, none was as spectacular as the five Steelers linebackers, including non-starter Lawrence Timmons, who had three tackles and seemed to be everywhere. Larry Foote had four tackles and Harrison led them with eight.

"We love it. When we're out there playing like that it's a lot of fun," Farrior said.

Nobody had better games than the two outside linebackers.

"Out of the whole group I thought Woodley and Harrison really made a lot of big plays," Farrior said. "They were all over the place. Those two guys by themselves pretty much dominated the game."

Because Harrison led the Steelers with 8 1/2 sacks last season, made his first Pro Bowl and was voted team MVP, it's no surprise when he has a big game. This was Woodley's first start, in his second season. He showed some splash with four sacks in 80 snaps as a rookie, plus two more sacks in the playoff game, yet his teammates wondered how he would perform as the full-time linebacker on the left outside, where Clark Haggans used to patrol, Jason Gildon before him and Kevin Greene before him.

The Steelers' 3-4 defense is designed for the two outside linebackers to make big plays and they came through in the opener.

"I love to see that out of them," Farrior said. "James already has been productive in this defense, we know what he's going to bring. Woodley was sort of a question because he's a new guy, but he's showing everybody he can be out there with us."

Harrison said the presence of Woodley on the left should help him because teams eventually will be forced to pay the younger linebacker as much attention as the team's MVP.

"They'll have to," Harrison said yesterday. "If this game doesn't make them pay attention, the next three or four games might."

Judging by Harrison's reaction to the linebackers' performance, the Steelers can expect bigger days ahead. He did not think they played all that well despite their dominance.

"No, we had a bunch of mental errors," he said.

What about all his sacks, pressures, tackles for losses and forced fumble?

"I don't look at all that. It was fine. Sacks are good. I like it. I'm working for sacks. It was an OK game."

It was more like the O.K. Corral from the Earps' point of view.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on September 9, 2008 at 12:00 am

09-09-2008, 07:41 AM
If we continue to get that kind of pressure game in and game out this will be a very successful season. This weekend in Cleveland will be a major test because they have a very good OL. Woodley is going to have to step it up because Harrison will have his hands full with Joe Thomas.

The ability to pressure from both theleft and the right OLB position will be signicant. Haggens was pretty much a non factor the last several years.