View Full Version : Finally!

12-08-2010, 10:59 AM

Harris: LeBeau made right call: listening to players

Updated Dec 8, 2010 8:26 AM ET
Players play and coaches coach, but Steelers defensive captain James Farrior and his teammates had seen enough Sunday night.

No more sitting back and taking it.

Enough with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco picking the secondary clean like a leftover Thanksgiving turkey. If the Steelers were going to win the AFC North, someone was going to have to take a bullet for the rest of the team.

Someone was going to have to tell defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to call more blitzes.

Who better than Farrior? He's one of four co-captains and old enough (35) not to care what people think.

It wasn't easy for a popular veteran like Farrior to make suggestions to his coach, especially during a game. To Farrior, though, the alternative of losing was too unflattering to consider.

"We definitely felt we could get some good pressure. We just had to get the right calls in,'' Farrior said in the afterglow of the Steelers' gritty 13-10 win.

"That's what our guys were preaching on the sideline to the coaches. If we were gonna go down, we were gonna go down blitzing. We definitely didn't want to sit back. Coach LeBeau listened to us.''

In the first half, Flacco had his way with the Steelers. He navigated the longest scoring drive of his NFL career -- 92 yards. He completed passes of 61 and 67 yards and was 9 of 14 for 179 yards and a touchdown with a 131.5 passer rating.

Other than a first-quarter sack by defensive end Ziggy Hood, Flacco was rarely under duress. He was on his way to another score and a career game when momentum shifted.

On third-and-15 from the Steelers 32 in the second quarter, cornerback Ike Taylor caught Baltimore with a surprise blitz and sacked Flacco for an 11-yard loss. The play knocked Baltimore out of scoring position. Instead of trailing 14-0 or even 10-0 at halftime, the Steelers faced only a 7-0 deficit.

In the second half, the tables turned. The Steelers had their way with Flacco, who was 8 of 19 for 87 yards with a 65.8 passer rating, mainly due to a better pass rush making it difficult for him to step into his throws.

With LeBeau dealing out blitzes like a blackjack dealer shuffles cards, the Steelers overwhelmed Flacco with pressure.

"When you dial up the blitz, it's usually hit or miss,'' Taylor said. "We hit (Sunday) night.''

That's a gamble outside linebacker James Harrison wants to take more often.

"I'm of the feeling if you're gonna kill me, kill me at what I like to do and that's blitz,'' said Harrison, the Steelers' sack leader this season with 10.

"In earlier weeks, we were dropping in coverage (instead of blitzing). At the end of the Buffalo game last week, we dropped a whole lot more. This game we brought a lot more pressure than we did in the first (Baltimore) game.''

Flacco threw the decisive 18-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 34 seconds left in the Ravens' 17-14 win over the Steelers on Oct. 3. The Steelers didn't blitz on the play, and Flacco was free to throw without pressure.

Two months later, the Steelers defense didn't repeat that mistake when Flacco faced second-and-5 at the Baltimore 43 late in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 10-6, the Steelers' defense needed to make a big play or lose any realistic chance of winning the division.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu delivered, sacking Flacco from the blind side and forcing a fumble that led to the Steelers' winning touchdown.

"We felt like we could disrupt, get in Flacco's face, if they gave us an opportunity,'' said Farrior, who recorded a team-high seven tackles and sacked Flacco in the fourth quarter.

"We don't question Coach LeBeau and the decisions he makes. Sometimes we just try to throw something out there and maybe he'll listen. Everybody has their own idea what we should be doing, but he's the guy.''

A smart guy, to be sure. Great coaches aren't too big to listen to their players. To his credit, LeBeau listened.