View Full Version : AFC North: Steelers "D" Getting Scarier

12-09-2008, 07:27 PM
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AFC North: Steelers "D" Getting Scarier

By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - When it comes time to announce the AFC's Pro Bowl defense in a couple of weeks, perhaps the NFL should just rip up the ballot, make all 11 members of the Steelers the starters, and be done with it.

Maybe there will be players that make the Pro Bowl roster who have bigger names or better stats at a few positions, but as of this moment, it is hard to imagine a combination of stars that could be more effective working together as a group than this current roster of Steelers.

In Sunday's come-from-behind win against the Cowboys, Dick LeBeau's group simply imposed its will in the fourth quarter, harassing Tony Romo into giving away a game Dallas had to have but didn't get.

Following the moment when Tony Romo completed a first-down pass to Terrell Owens at the 10:58 mark of the fourth quarter and with Dallas holding a 13-3 advantage, the Steelers could do little wrong defensively.

Three plays after the completion to T.O. got Dallas out of the shadow of its own end zone, the Cowboys were punting from their own 18-yard line, and a good Santonio Holmes punt return set up a Jeff Reed field goal to make the score 13-6 with 7:20 to play.

The Pittsburgh defense forced a three-and-out on the following drive, with a Travis Kirschke sack of Romo providing the big blow, giving the ball back to the Steelers with 5:10 left.

After struggling for the entire day, Ben Roethlisberger promptly led the Steelers on their best drive of the game, an eight-play, 67-yarder culminating in a six-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller to tie the score at 13-13 with 2:10 left.

Then it was the defense's turn again, as Romo was intercepted by Deshea Townsend on the second play of the ensuing drive. Townsend took the pick 26 yards to the house at a by-now-frenzied Heinz Field, and the Steelers allowed Romo to get no further than the Dallas 28-yard line on the next drive before they wrapped up the win.

For the day, the Steelers forced one of the league's best offenses into five turnovers, including three picks from Romo, who was also sacked three times.

Lest you thought it was games against patsies like the Browns and Bengals that allowed Pittsburgh to lead the NFL in total defense (241.9 yards per game), scoring defense (14.1 points per game), touchdowns allowed (17), rushing defense (73 yards per game), passing defense (168.9 yards per game), and sacks (45), Sunday's effort should have proved otherwise to the last remaining doubters.

Soon, even head coach Mike Tomlin might be impressed.

"We are a work-in-progress in that regard," Tomlin remarked about his defense after the win. "Those guys in that room know that great defenses and legendary defenses make their mark in January football. We have to get there and then they can earn those kind of stripes. They are a heck of a defense and they are a big reason why we were successful today."

Clearly, the Steelers don't have time to sit around admiring their most recent win.

Next on the docket is a road game against the Ravens (9-4) in Baltimore, a team that gave Pittsburgh all it could handle back in Week 4 and has only gotten stronger during a current 6-1 stretch of football.

Pittsburgh has lost five straight games in Baltimore, and a sixth consecutive would put the Steelers (10-3) in major danger of coughing up their ability to win the division, earn an all-important first-round bye, and/or start the playoffs on their home field.

Even with a loss, the Steelers would still be in the driver's seat in the AFC North thanks to a superior record in the conference, but with an arduous trip to Tennessee on the horizon one week after the Baltimore affair, the ground beneath their feet would be as treacherous as the embarrassing playing surface at Heinz Field.

"We are not excited about the historical significance of what we have going on right now, we can't," said Tomlin of his defense's work. "We take a victory today and we have to go to Baltimore next week."

BENGALS: The ongoing saga of Carson Palmer continued on Monday, when Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis revealed what sounded like good news about the former Pro Bowl quarterback's injured elbow.

"Every indication of every football orthopedist that has seen Carson is there will probably be no need for surgery," said Lewis.

Palmer has been sidelined since Week 5 with a partially torn ulna collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, and has consulted numerous specialists in the interim while trying to assess the best approach to handling the injury.

It has long been believed that Palmer would be placed on season-ending injured reserve with the ailment, but the USC product remains on the roster and there is a chance he could see action in one of Cincinnati's final three games, against the Redskins (12/14) this Sunday or the Browns (12/21) and Chiefs (12/28) in the final two weeks.

Given that Palmer has not thrown for longer than 25 yards while rehabbing the elbow, Lewis said this week's tilt would be a long shot for Palmer's return, but hope remains that he'll see the field for a 1-11-1 team in danger of posting the first one-win season in franchise history.

Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick is 1-7-1 in Palmer's place, and Cincinnati is last in the league in total offense (233.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (11.8 points per game).

"He's done well in everything thus far," said Lewis of Palmer's rehab. "He's had [none of] the issues he was dealing with before. I think he's excited about it, so we'll allow him to continue further and harder with more regularity. More throws."

BROWNS: Ken Dorsey's first start at quarterback in a little over three years went about how you would expect, especially given that his first test in that timeframe, just a couple of weeks removed from being the Browns' third- stringer, was on the road against a very good Tennessee Titans defense.

The former Miami-Florida star's first start as a member of the Browns was less than memorable, as he completed 22-of-43 passes for just 150 yards with no touchdowns and an interception on the day. Only one of Dorsey's completions against the Titans went for longer than 15 yards, he led Cleveland to only 12 first downs on the afternoon, and none of his three scoring drives (all of which resulted in field goals) was longer than 33 yards.

"There were times I wasn't efficient enough," said Dorsey after the loss. "They're a great defense.

"I feel like I made some good reads and made the right choices and there were times I missed some things. It's all part of the game. The interception is one I'd like back, certainly."

Dorsey will have a chance for redemption on Monday night, when he leads Cleveland (4-9) into battle in Philadelphia for the first primetime start of his career.

The Browns are 2-0 in Monday night games this year, owning wins over the Giants and Bills, and Dorsey can become the third different Cleveland quarterback (Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn) to lead the team to a Monday night win this season.

Dorsey's last win as a starter came on Oct. 30, 2005, when he helped the 49ers to a 15-10 win over the Buccaneers, and he is now 2-9 in his career when opening behind center.

RAVENS: Though players like Joey Porter of the Dolphins, Demarcus Ware of the Cowboys, and James Harrison and Troy Polamalu of the Steelers are garnering a great deal of attention in the race for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, a past winner of the award is making a strong case for consideration in that group as well.

Ravens safety Ed Reed is arguably playing his best football since winning the honor in 2004, and raised major eyebrows around the league with a scintillating performance in Sunday night's 24-10 win over the Washington Redskins.

Reed finished the game with two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and three tackles, setting the tone for the night with a 22-yard touchdown return of a Clinton Portis fumble to stake Baltimore to an ultimately insurmountable 14-0 first-quarter lead.

The touchdown was the third of the year for Reed, who had previously scored on a pair of interception returns, and also ranked as the 11th TD of the former first-rounder's six-year NFL career. Reed leads the Ravens with five picks for an AFC-best 191 interception yards on the season.

"It goes beyond his ability to make plays," said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh of Reed's defensive contributions. "He's not just making plays back there. He's playing with tremendous discipline, and he understands the offense he's playing against. He's been in position every single play for a lot of plays in a row. He's just great football player."

Of Reed's Defensive Player of the Year candidacy, Harbaugh said, "I don't see how you can not put him in there. He scores on defense. He makes plays every single week. If he's not an MVP candidate, I don't know who is."

Other members of the Ravens agreed with their coach's assessment.

"I don't think I've seen anyone in the last 10 years, since I've been in the league, that plays the position the way Ed plays it," said wideout Derrick Mason. "The guy roams the field like a hawk. Nothing gets past him...I think he has four of five arms, because it seems like wherever he goes he has a knack for making big plays, especially when we need it."

Should he win the end-of-year honor, which has been awarded by the Associated Press since 1971, Reed would become the first two-time winner since teammate Ray Lewis took home his second piece of hardware in 2003. Other multiple winners of the AP Defensive Player of the Year include the Bills' Bruce Smith (1990, 1996), Reggie White of the Eagles and Packers (1987, 1998), the Bears' Mike Singletary (1985, 1988), Giants' Lawrence Taylor (1981, 1982, 1986), and Steelers' Joe Greene (1972, 1974).

12/09 17:47:10 ET

12-09-2008, 08:55 PM
Ed Reed DPOY???? Puhleeease...

No way. Not even close.

Trop P.
Tackles -63
Passes Def. -23
Ints. - 7
FF - 0

Ed R.
Tackles -29
Passes Def. -17
Ints. - 5
FF - 1

I guess these writers have to come up with something about other teams' defenses, but really, the Steelers are the Gold Standard.