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fordfixer
10-21-2009, 01:20 AM
Published: October 20, 2009 12:20 am print this story

ERIC KNOPSNYDER | Jury is still out on Steelers
By ERIC KNOPSNYDER
The Tribune-Democrat
http://www.tribune-democrat.com/prospor ... 02022.html (http://www.tribune-democrat.com/prosports/local_story_293002022.html)

PITTSBURGH — At first glance, the Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to earn a passing grade in their first game without defensive end Aaron Smith, but coach Mike Tomlin said it was more like an incomplete.

Tomlin said that game film would do a better job of determining if Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason were really up to the task.

“Just a knee-jerk response today – yes,” Tomlin said Sunday when asked if he was happy with the play of Kirschke and Eason. “Again, we’ll let the tape do the talking for us, and I’ve yet to evaluate the tape and the minute details that are critical to playing that position well. That’s what Aaron excels at. We’ll wait until we look at the tape before we pass the judgment on the quality of their play, but overall as a unit, I thought we were above the line.”

Tomlin’s point about “the minute details that are critical to playing” defensive end in the 3-4 defense is an important one. Smith isn’t a household name outside of Pittsburgh because he doesn’t have impressive stats to support him. He’s only been named to one Pro Bowl – after recording a career high eight sacks in 2004-05 – but ask just about any Steeler and they’ll tell you that Smith is as important as anyone to the success of the defense.

James Harrison was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, and Troy Polamalu is a five-time Pro Bowl pick, but the often-unheralded Smith is the one that Polamalu himself called “irreplaceable” last week.

So Kirschke and Eason, who is now backing up Kirschke, have accepted the challenge of attempting to play at Smith’s level without trying to do too much.

“You lose a great player like Aaron Smith, who has been an anchor of this defense for a long time, you can’t put a Superman on your chest and try to go out and make plays,” Eason said. “If you do that, you generally play out of the framework of the defense. And Aaron didn’t do that. Aaron played within the framework of the defense and made the plays that came to him. That was our job (Sunday) – just go out and play technique, and the plays would come to us.”

The Steelers’ 27-14 victory over the Browns on Sunday was their first game since Smith, who has a torn rotator cuff, was placed on the injured reserve list. And it was the first start of the season for Kirschke, who thought the defense played well but – like Tomlin – wanted to check game film before throwing around any kudos.

“I felt good,” Kirschke said. “I kind of tweaked my back last week, so I was concerned about how long I would last. But it actually felt really good. I felt good until I got a little stinger in my neck, but that stuff heals up quickly.”

Think Smith gets overlooked in the Steelers defense? Try being Kirschke. Despite being in his 13th NFL season – including the past six with the Steelers – the 35-year-old has his name spelled wrong at least seven times in the team’s media guide.

And it’s not as if Kirschke hasn’t gotten playing time with the Steelers. He’s played in every game since joining the Steelers in 2004 and made his 12th start with Pittsburgh on Sunday. It looks like he’ll see the majority of time at left end with Eason substituting as needed.

The fact that first-round draft pick Ziggy Hood – who the Steelers are very high on – hasn’t been able to crack the rotation says something about how difficult it is to play the position.

It also says something about the confidence the Steelers have in Kirschke and Eason.

“The did a great job (Sunday),” Polamalu said.

The Steelers held the Browns to 91 rushing yards despite facing an offense that often had Joshua Cribbs lining up in the wildcat formation in an effort to be more effective on the ground, which was why Polamalu was reserving judgment on the defensive ends until after next week’s game with Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings.

“(The Browns) didn’t really attack us in a true running-style offense, only in that wildcat,” Polamalu said. “It will be a big test for us this next week coming up, when you have a downhill-running team.”

Maybe that incomplete grade will be around a bit longer after all.

JTP53609
10-21-2009, 12:21 PM
i speak for tomlin when i say, let the jury decide all they want, they dont have a say in what the team does the rest of the season, if the "jury" wants to take a look at last years super bowl team that is basically all still in tact than be my guest

pfelix73
10-21-2009, 12:31 PM
After only 6 weeks, the jury is still out on the entire NFL at this point. Lets discuss whether or not the 'jury is still out' in December.

:tt1