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fordfixer
01-28-2009, 12:51 PM
Steelers defense wants to put the hurt on fumble-prone Kurt Warner

By HANK GOLA
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/footb ... urt_o.html (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/2009/01/27/2009-01-27_steelers_defense_wants_to_put_the_hurt_o.html)

Tuesday, January 27th 2009, 9:40 PM


TAMPA - On one hand, you have Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, who set a Steeler record with 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles. On the other, you have Kurt Warner, whose No. 1 issue during his career has been holding onto the football.

Considering that Super Bowl teams that win the turnover battle are 30-3, Steeler hopes of raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy have a lot to do with returning Warner to his old, fumbling ways.

"If somebody is known for putting the ball on the ground, you definitely try to strip the ball. Do what you have to do to get the ball back to your offense," Steelers OLB LaMarr Woodley said. "That's what I think is one of the keys to winning the game...going out there and causing the quarterback to make mistakes, putting pressure on the quarterbacks like we've been doing all year....And the quarterbacks have been giving us the ball."

"Our biggest job is going to be keeping him unhappy in the pocket," said ILB James Farrior. "That's going to be our main focus...not letting him sit back there, relaxing, throwing the ball like he does every week. We're going to have to put pressure on him, get to him, rattle him."

Warner is very aware. After fumbling 11 times in the regular season (and losing seven), he hasn't coughed one up yet in the playoffs. He did a tremendous job of avoiding the Eagles blitz in the NFC Championship Game. In fact, he turned the tables on defensive coordinator Jim Johnson by attacking the vacated zones, using three-step drops and quick releases.

But, warns Woodley, "You can't do three-step drops the whole game. He'll have to hold the ball a few times, here and there, and when you do it, me and 92 will be coming."

That would be Harrison, of course. While many pass rushers have tomahawk chop-like moves to separate ball from passer, few players since Lawrence Taylor have been able to perfect it.

"He blows by guys so he has time to think and be aware of the ball," said LB Larry Foote. "He works on the strip with the bags at practice every day. The strip-sack is his platinum move."

But, says Harrison, "Everybody wants to say it's a special skill, it's an innate ability. I was taught that in high school. You get to the quarterback. You come in from his back side. You hook his one arm. You swing with the other. It's just natural. I don't know why other guys don't do it. It's not that hard to do."

Farrior says he's never seen anyone do it better.

"I don't even know if he really thinks about doing it. It's just something that comes natural to him. I've never really played with a player who can do those things," Farrior said. "He gets in that moment, it's just something that happens. He wants to get that ball. When he gets a sack, there's a good chance the ball is going to be on the ground. We're just like buzzards waiting."

Or, said Woodley, "James is known for stripping quarterbacks and I'm known for scooping up the ball. I guess I'm the pooper-scooper."

Warner has had plenty of dog days losing the football, but ball security became his No. 1 priority coming into the season. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley told him it was the only thing holding him back from being a great quarterback again. Every practice day begins with Warner running a gauntlet of drills, according to QB coach Jeff Rutledge, the former Giant.

"We've got bags, we go in and out, over, step up...keep it high, tuck and run, come back, just all kinds of things, constantly keeping two hands on it," Rutledge said. "It gets him loose, it's a thought pattern and it's something he had to work on."

The results have been good, mostly. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Warner averaged one interception or lost fumble for every 29.7 pass plays this past season, down from one every 20.5 pass plays in 2007. In fact, his 11 fumbles, tied for fourth among NFL QBs, were three fewer than Ben Roethlisberger's league-high 14. The one exception was the Jets game, where he fumbled four times, lost three, and was pressured or fooled into three INTs.

It's a tape has probably been getting a workout in the Steelers' film room.

Steeler Expat
01-28-2009, 01:06 PM
Or, said Woodley, "James is known for stripping quarterbacks and I'm known for scooping up the ball. I guess I'm the pooper-scooper."

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