View Full Version : Nice article on the D!!

10-05-2008, 09:33 AM
Steelers blitz wreaks havoc on opponents
Sunday, October 05, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gene J. Puskar/APLed by James Harrision and Lamarr Woodley, shown here, the Steelers are sacking quarterbacks like it was 2001 again.Sacks have been an issue for the Steelers as Ben Roethlisberger approaches a record number if things don't slow down soon.

Yet they've also been a major factor on the other side of the ball. The Steelers' defense has 15 sacks through four games, on pace for 60, which would shred their record of 55.

It's a good start to improving their sack total of the past two seasons when they dipped to 39 in 2006 and 36 last season.

They set the team record in 1994 (and tied it in 2001) when the Blitzburgh defense was born. No one can label this defense Blitzburgh II, though, at least not yet because they're sacking quarterbacks without using many of their exotic blitzes.

As linebacker Larry Foote said, "We ain't really blitzing."

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau disputed that, saying he has called as many blitzes this year as in the past, but he did say they've not used many of their complicated zone-blitz schemes and he did not blitz much against Baltimore Monday night.

"Actually, we haven't called many blitzes," linebacker James Harrison said. "We haven't really called too many of our complicated zig-zag blitzes that we do. We haven't shown many."

Harrison is at it again. He led the Steelers with 8.5 sacks in his first season as their starting right outside linebacker in 2007, when he made the Pro Bowl. He's second in the NFL now with 5.5 sacks, one-half a sack behind leader John Abraham of Atlanta.

No Steelers player ever has led the NFL in sacks at the end of the season. Mike Merriweather holds the club record with 15 in 1984.

Led by James Harrision and Lamarr Woodley, the Steelers are sacking quarterbacks like it was 2001 again. A comparison of their numbers against last year and their record-tying 2001:
Year Sacks* Final Rank
2008 15 ??? 2nd*
2007 14 36 13th
2006 11 55 1st
*-through four games
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, starting on the left outside for the first time, has 3.5 sacks (tied for ninth in the league) and believes Harrison can win the NFL sack title.

"Of course, and I can be right behind him because the more he gets the more he puts pressure on me," Woodley said. "Yeah, there's a little competition between us. Right now, he has me beat. I tell him before every game I'm going to close the gap this week, and he tells me he's going to expand the gap and he did that Monday night."

That's when Harrison had 2.5 of the Steelers six sacks of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, and Woodley had 1.5. Having Woodley on the field helps Harrison, coaches and teammates say, because offenses cannot game-plan against just one. He is a big reason their pressure has improved.

"I just think Harrison and Woodley are winning their one-on-one matchups," Foote reasons as to why the Steelers have not found it necessary to use their exotic blitzes through the first part of the season.

"Both him and James are unbelievable right now. Hopefully, they keep it going. If you can pressure without blitzing, that's the key. We definitely have it available for us."

What, then, might happen when LeBeau cuts them loose? Second-year linebacker Lawrence Timmons could become their best pass rusher, but they've held him back when he plays the middle in their nickel defense. He had a sack, a tackle for a loss, a pass defensed and a quarterback pressure Monday in his part-time role.

What might happen when they start sending Timmons more often?

"Look out!" defensive end Aaron Smith predicted. "He's so young, but he's so talented. He's a good player now and going to get better. In two or three years, he's going to be unbelievable. I think he might be the best player in the NFL in two years."

Smith has two sacks and Foote 1.5 as eight Steelers defenders share in the sack statistics.

"If you can get pressure on the quarterback without blitzing, it shows what kind of defense you have," Woodley said. "It shows the guys up front and the guys in the back, everybody is doing their job.

"And then when you finally do call a blitz, you have a real high chance of getting home then, because if they can't stop four guys, how are they going to stop the blitz?"

Jacksonville's David Garrard is a 6-foot-1, 245-pound quarterback who is difficult to tackle and, as the Steelers found in their playoff loss to the Jaguars last season, can elude the pass rush and run for big gains.

"You want to try to keep him contained, don't let him get outside the pocket and stay in your lanes when you rush him," Harrison said. "Don't let him get wide open so he sees an open lane and just takes off."

It won't be done cautiously, though.

"We're going to continue to come," Woodley said. "I think we're going to continue to constantly bring pressure. It's not only me and James Harrison, but you have those guys up the middle. There are a lot of guys who continue to bring pressure."

You have to like Aaron Smith's opinion on Timmons!!