View Full Version : Steelers’ defense enjoying success built on stability

09-16-2010, 11:08 PM
September 15, 2010
Steelers’ defense enjoying success built on stability

By ALAN ROBINSON Associated Press Associated Press Wed Sep 15, 2010, 11:57 PM EDT
http://tribune-democrat.com/prosports/x ... -stability (http://tribune-democrat.com/prosports/x1561141976/Steelers-defense-enjoying-success-built-on-stability)

PITTSBURGH — NFL rosters change frequently from season to season due to salary cap restrictions, free agency and the draft, yet the Pittsburgh Steelers are an anomaly during a time when one bad game or one bad season can cause a team to shed a player.

When they began practicing Wednesday for their game at Tennessee on Sunday, all 11 players who started on defense for them during the Cardinals-Steelers’ Super Bowl two seasons ago were on the field. Ten of the 11 remain starters; only linebacker Larry Foote is a backup.

By contrast, the Cardinals have only four holdover starters, although linebacker Clark Haggans would be among that group if he hadn’t missed the Super Bowl with a foot injury.

That 2008 Steelers defense was one of the best in NFL history, leading the league in overall and passing defense while giving up the fewest points

– despite playing one of the most difficult schedules of any Super Bowl winner, opposing the Ravens (twice), Chargers (twice), Cowboys, Patriots, Eagles, Giants, Titans and Colts.

This defense matched that ’08 level of performance by holding Atlanta without a touchdown during a 15-9 overtime victory Sunday in which the Falcons ended only one drive inside the Pittsburgh 20-yeard line.

“I don’t compare our seasons like that, but it was a good start for us,” linebacker James Farrior said Wednesday. “I think everybody was on their stuff during that game. We’ve just got to keep it up. It was similar, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

Of course, this defense is accustomed to being together for long stretches.

By deftly managing the salary cap, the Steelers have kept defensive end Aaron Smith for 12 seasons, nose tackle Casey Hampton for 10; Farrior, defensive end Brett Keisel and backup lineman Chris Hoke for nine each, safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor for eight apiece, linebacker James Harrison for seven, and linebacker LaMarr Woodley and safety Ryan Clark for five seasons. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is the least-experienced starter, and he’s been with them for four seasons.

Seven of the 11 starters are

30 or older, and Polamalu and cornerback Bryant McFadden both turn 30 next year.

Many teams are reluctant to accumulate so many players above the age when performance can begin to decline and injuries become more frequent.

However, the Steelers are reluctant to break up a unit that statistically was No. 1 in 2007, 2008 and 2004 and has finished below No. 5 only once since 2003.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 73 and, understandably, is sensitive to questions about how age affects performance. He suggests his defense draws motivation from the frequent talk it’s getting too old to remain among the best.

“We’re going to let the season speak for us on that,” he said.

With Polamalu and Smith out with injuries much of last season, the Steelers played below their usual level by losing five times after leading in the fourth quarter. The Falcons game suggests the Steelers are significantly improved with Polamalu and Smith back, but a single game against an opponent that doesn’t see them very often can be misleading.

Opposing the Titans (1-0) could prove to be a better indicator of where this defense is.

The Titans were the only team to beat the Steelers decisively in 2008, winning 31-14.

“Honestly, I can’t even remember that game. We played them last year in Heinz Field and won in overtime

(13-10), and that was a whole different makeup,” wide receiver Hines Ward said. “This team is different.”

Pittsburgh also will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as he serves the second game of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Titans quarterback Vince Young hasn’t opposed the Steelers before as a starter, but he understands what he’s getting into from watching on tape – a defense that knows what it’s doing and does it as well as any unit in the league. He saw that by watching the Falcons offense struggle to give quarterback Matt Ryan enough time to dodge Pittsburgh’s frequent blitzing and throw enough accurate passes to mount a consistent offense.

“You have to be very patient and take what they give you, until something breaks,” Young said. “I have a lot of respect for them. This is my first time and I’m definitely looking forward to it because you always want to test yourself against the best. That is how much respect I have for those guys.”

NW Steeler
09-17-2010, 12:07 AM
WTF? Woodley and Timmons were drafted together, and they played the Ravens 3 times in the 08' SB season. Don't these guys check their facts?

09-17-2010, 08:00 AM
WTF? Woodley and Timmons were drafted together, and they played the Ravens 3 times in the 08' SB season. Don't these guys check their facts?

Yeah, I thought the article had some good stuff in it but I also caught this and thought "well....." That being said, have to give some kudos to our FO and Coaching Staff for having a consistently good defense.

09-17-2010, 05:15 PM
The defense does seem to have a solid nucleus that reloads like a College Powerhouse where the second string could start on a lot of teams.

09-17-2010, 11:00 PM
Cook: Steelers' Farrior takes pride in team's defense

Friday, September 17, 2010


Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
Steeler linebacker James Farrior: "I don't feel old. I feel strong. It's all in your head."

Let's start by looking back -- to the Steelers' impressive 15-9 overtime win Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, to the huge role played by their defense to give the team a chance to be successful in the first of four games they will be without suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That sure beats looking ahead -- to the game Sunday at Tennessee, where the Steelers are 1-8, to the matchup against Titans All-World running back Chris Johnson. "The fastest man I've ever seen," Steelers linebacker James Farrior called him this week. "I can't think of anyone faster ... "

Wait a minute.

Stop right there.

I said we would start by looking back.

Farrior loved that idea.

"We looked good," he said after reviewing tape of the Atlanta game. "Guys were flying around. We didn't have a lot of mental mistakes. It felt like we were in control of whatever they wanted to do."

Farrior is the captain of the defense. Any dedicated, caring parent can relate to how he feels after a game. When his guys struggle, as they did last season when the defense blew five fourth-quarter leads and the Steelers missed the playoffs by one game, he hurts and takes it personally. But when they do great things, as they did Sunday when they held Falcons running back Michael Turner to 42 yards and the Atlanta offense to three field goals, he is the proudest man on the planet.

"It means a lot to me because I have a lot of say-so with this group," Farrior said. "I make the calls and get them lined up. To be able to do that for these guys is special."

Farrior is closest to the linebackers. He is one, right? He lines up inside in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme next to fourth-year pro Lawrence Timmons, who might have been the best player on the field Sunday. Dominating just as he did during training camp and in the exhibition games, Timmons was credited with 11 tackles -- three for losses -- and also had a quarterback pressure.

"It's his time. He should have a Pro Bowl season," Farrior said. "The mental part of his game has caught up with his talent. He was young when he first got here. Just 20 years old. He didn't know what to do or what to expect or how to be a pro. He knows now. I tell him all the time. No one can block him. He just needs to go out and play."

Outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison each had a sack against the Falcons. "Business as usual for those two," Farrior said, shrugging. Harrison also forced Falcons offensive tackle Sam Baker into a drive-killing holding penalty in overtime.

"They were in [quarterback Matt Ryan's] face all day and I think he felt the heat," Farrior said. "Those guys brought great pressure all day."

And how about the old guy of the group? No. 51?

"I played good," Farrior said. "I missed a couple of tackles. I know I missed one on Turner in the backfield and he ended up having his longest run of the day -- 7 yards. But, overall, it was pretty good."

Farrior had 11 tackles and a quarterback pressure. Pretty good is right, especially for a fellow, 35, in his 14th NFL season. Wasn't he supposed to have lost a step?

You could have fooled Turner, Ryan and the rest of the Falcons.

"I don't feel old," Farrior said. "I feel strong. It's all in your head.

"It's good to show I've still got a little juice left in the tank."

Farrior is the first to admit he will need everything he has Sunday in Nashville to keep up with the great Johnson ...

Hey, I didn't say we weren't going to look ahead at all, did I?

Farrior was agreeable.

"I had a chance to work out with him when he came out of college," he said of Johnson. "I timed him in the 40. He was wearing a 20-pound vest and he still ran a 4.34. I couldn't believe it. I asked another guy who was timing him what he had. He said 4.34. I was like, 'Damn, that's fast.' "

Johnson ran for 2,006 yards last season to lead the NFL. He had 142 yards in the Titans' easy win Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. That was his 12th consecutive 100-yard game, two shy of Hall of Famer Barry Sanders' NFL record.

"We're going to shut that down," Farrior said. "We're going to make it tough for him."

It's a nice thought. The Steelers did hold Johnson to 57 yards on 15 carries in their opening-game win against the Titans last season at Heinz Field. But this is 2010. The Steelers' defense is a year older and a ...

Now, it was Farrior's turn to say wait a minute.

"A year better," he said, grinning.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10260/10 ... z0zqWmJnte (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10260/1088179-66.stm#ixzz0zqWmJnte)