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hawaiiansteel
06-17-2012, 07:39 PM
Three Biggest Reasons Why The Steelers Pass Defense Will Improve In 2012 And Beyond

Jun 16th, 2012 by DomSteelers

http://nicepickcowher.com/files/2012/06/5663036-300x196.jpg?75c61e

Probably the two biggest areas Pittsburgh’s Defense struggled with the most over the last decade have been: Defending in the short and intermediate passing game when spread out against a well-rounded Receiving Corps, and defending against Backs and Ends through the air as well. New England and Tom Brady picked them apart in essentially every matchup, Rich Gannon destroyed them back on in 2002 and almost set all sorts of N.F.L. passing records, Drew Brees had his way with the Defense in 2010, Dick LeBeau’s schemes and numerous mental mistakes cost the Steelers against Tim Tebow of all people, and Aaron Rodgers would have had an even more incredible day in Super Bowl XLV had his Receivers held on to some extremely catchable balls.

Thankfully, it has seemed like Dick LeBeau, the rest of the Defensive Staff, and the Front Office have decided to do something about the Steelers’ Defensive struggles during the last couple of seasons. With the Steelers’ evident Defensive weaknesses on tape, and the League moving more towards a pass-first game,

improvements have been made to the roster, and it appears that the wheels have been set in motion to bolster and fix Pittsburgh’s Pass Defense for years to come. Thus, today I would like to list what I believe are the Top Three Reasons that the Steelers will be an improved Defense against the pass and explain why I feel this way.

3. Outside Linebackers Should (Hopefully) Be Healthy

This is a big one because at some point last season Pittsburgh’s Top Three pass rushers in the forms of LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, and Jason Worilds were all injured, not at full-strength, or in Deebo’s case suspended for one game. At 100 percent, this rotation of Outside Linebackers forms one of the most formidable trios in the League, but when Lawrence Timmons is forced to play out of position and pick up the slack because one or more of these guys is on the bench, the team, and most of all the pass-rush suffers.

The Steelers logged only 35.0 Sacks last season, 13.0 less than in 2010 (48.0) when they went to the Super Bowl. Harrison and Woodley both notched 9.0 Sacks apiece but Deebo only played in 11 games all regular season, and Woodley only played in 10 himself. Worilds stepped in and showed some nice ability when called upon and registered 3.0 Sacks, but he was limited to only 12 games and was hindered by the fact there were no OTA’s and offseason workouts as he continued his transition from Defensive End to Outside Linebacker before his second season.

But with all three hopefully healthy, only good things can come of it. Because with all three at full strength, all three can bring pressure and help collapse the pocket. The more heat brought on the opposition’s Quarterback, the more liable they are to either fold like a lawn chair or make bad decisions. The more this happens the more pressure is taken off of the Secondary to make plays and stay on their men, and frees them up to make plays and play the ball. When this happens, well, we all know that good things happen when Polamalu is allowed to do what he does. With two Pro Bowlers and one young and talented edge rusher to spell them when need be healthy, Pittsburgh’s Defense should reap the benefits, especially when playing against the pass.

2. New Inside Linebackers Can Pass Cover

While they have been a bit under the radar, the Steelers have made a couple of acquisitions at the Linebacker position which should help them defend the pass in the coming years. One such acquisition is Brandon Johnson, and I was a fan of the team signing him when they stated that they were interested. If you would like to read my post from last month on why signing Johnson would be a good move for the Steelers, follow this link here. But if you do not want to read it and want an abridged version, one of the biggest reasons I thought Johnson would be a good addition is the fact that he can help out on passing downs and did a solid job against the pass for the Bengals during his career there.

At 6’5″ 245 lbs. Johnson is an imposing figure which has the size and strength to matchup with some of the more physical Tight Ends and be an imposing figure to clog up passing lanes. And hey, Johnson might even give the team a Sack or two if asked to come through the A-Gap once and a while on passing downs if some sort of Zone-Blitz is employed. Overall, the addition of a veteran with a skill-set that Pittsburgh definitely is in need of (including Special Teams) puts a smile on my face.

Although Johnson acquisition may help in the present, the player which many in “Steeler Nation” have become particularly excited about is Rookie Linebacker Sean Spence. And Spence’s athleticism, upside, and ability to play the pass are reasons to get any Steelers fan excited. At 5’11″ 231 lbs., Spence might not be the most physically imposing specimen, but make no mistake, this guy is speedy and can be a great equalizer against the opposition’s more athletic Backs and Ends in the short and intermediate passing games. If Spence pans out and is an effective option on 3rd Downs and passing situations, it could be a huge weight off of the shoulders of the other Linebackers and the Secondary in general.

No more will Tight Ends be running free across the middle, and no more will Quarterbacks have their safety valves to go to with eons of space after getting rid of the ball before being flattened by Deebo or Woodley. Granted, Spence is likely a year away from contributing on a consistent basis on the Defensive side of the ball as he will likely spend his first year on Special Teams and transitioning to a 3-4 Defense. However, Spence has the tools to be a very effective weapon for Pittsburgh and should factor in greatly into their future plans to stop opponents’ passing games.

1. Cornerback Position Finally Has Talented Depth

Across the board, the Steelers have some imposing and talented players at the Cornerback position for the first time in a very long time. Going four-deep with Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, and Curtis Brown, each player is at or over 6’0 and is in the neighborhood of 200 lbs.. Each player understands how, or is learning how to play Zone in LeBeau’s Defense. All are big enough and more than physical enough to lock up and play man against Receivers if need be. And best of all, every guy is tough enough to help support in the run game when the time comes.

Lewis seemed to finally get his head on straight last season, and is the front-runner to replace William Gay for the #2 Cornerback spot after spending last season as the Nickelback. Allen, whose size and coverage ability could be best used against Tight End heavy teams like New England, Cincinnati, and Baltimore, figures to compete with Lewis for the #2 role and should see some more snaps than in his Rookie year where he did a nice job in some Dime sub-packages. And Brown is a tough guy who should be able to help out in the slot and get physical with some of the more smaller, possession-type pass catchers.

The upgrades have been made talent-wise, and hopefully the younger guys are able to step up this season. The pressure will likely be on Lewis the most as he will be an Unrestricted Free Agent, and playing for a new contract in 2013. Thus, holding off 2011′s 3rd and 4th Round picks will be an absolute must. Pressure aside, if two or all three of these guys behind Ike can improve and show up on a consistent basis this year, the opposition will have think twice before immediately beginning to dink-and-dunk on this Defense down the field.

Final Thoughts

Are Pittsburgh’s problems against the pass all solved? Heck no, and if they were I probably would not be writing this article. The Cornerback depth might be talented, but they are still a bit young at the position and Allen and Brown will have much more on their plates this year in terms of responsibility. Plus, there is almost zero experienced depth behind Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and Ryan Mundy at the Safety position. Spence is only a Rookie as well, and we will likely have to wait close to a year to see what he can do if LeBeau decides not to play him or does not believe he is ready to play in Nickel and Dime sub-packages yet.

Regardless of the fact that there is still work to do, one thing is clear: the Steelers have begun to fix their issues defending the passing game and seem to be headed on the right track. Only time will tell if my optimism is either spot-on, misguided, or somewhere in between. However, I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for Pittsburgh’s pass defense and whether or not the upgrades will work.

http://nicepickcowher.com/2012/06/16/three-biggest-reasons-why-the-steelers-pass-defense-will-be-improved/

Oviedo
06-18-2012, 07:38 AM
My biggest concern is Harrison's health. His body may have taken too much the past several years with his bullrush pass rush and reckless abandon play. I'm not sure we have anyone who can play to his level. Worilds is good but won't be a superstar.

IMO the two keys this season are Woodley being the player he is capable of and LeBeau rediscovering the inside blitz using Timmons and whoever else is manning the "Buck." We have woefully underutilized Timmons' blitz abilities and it has made it easy for opponents to focus on the OLBs.

flippy
06-18-2012, 02:19 PM
I see the biggest issues as getting consistent QB pressure without blitzing.

Oviedo
06-18-2012, 04:11 PM
I see the biggest issues as getting consistent QB pressure without blitzing.

That's kinda what the 3-4 is all about. You have to blitz to get pressure because 3 DL can't do. Hence why I really like the 4-3 more.

hawaiiansteel
06-18-2012, 04:20 PM
Hence why I really like the 4-3 more.


really? we would have never known that...:D

RuthlessBurgher
06-19-2012, 10:12 AM
That's kinda what the 3-4 is all about. You have to blitz to get pressure because 3 DL can't do. Hence why I really like the 4-3 more.

A 4 man rush isn't a blitz from the 3-4 or 4-3 base. The main difference is that the offense has a pretty good idea which 4 men will be rushing when they are facing a 4-3, which I think makes it easier for the OL since they know in advance who they should be blocking. Against a 3-4, will the 3 DL and one of the OLB's rush? Which OLB rushes and which one drops? Will both OLB's rush and 2 of the DL? Which DL will be dropping into a short zone coverage? We could bring both OLB's, our NT, plus an ILB to rush the passer (again, just a 4 man rush, not a blitz), with the 2 DE's dropping into the flat on each side and the remaining ILB in a short middle zone. The 3-4 is much more versatile, even when you aren't necessarily blitzing (and the 3-4 can be potentially devastating once you start mixing unpredictable effective blitzes with a 5th or even 6th rusher). The 4-3 is much more vanilla and straightforward...blah.

papillon
06-19-2012, 12:25 PM
Technically, a pass rush isn't a blitz until you rush more defenders than the offense has blockers (excluding a back that holds to pick up a blitzing player), which means the blitz isn't a blitz until the 6th pass rusher is employed. A 3-4 by definition only has 3 linemen which means two other players can rush and it still technically isn't a blitz. Many (In my opinion) believe that as soon as Harrison or Woodley rush it becomes a blitz, when in fact, they simply become the 4th pass rusher. What the Steelers had trouble doing is getting pressure with their 3 down linemen and any one of the line backers meaning rushing 4 defenders. If Harrison and Woodley can stay healthy (a big if) the Steeler base pass rush should be formidable and allow the other 7 defenders to a lot of different things to confuse an offense. If they bring 5 and defend with 6, with a healthy Woodley and Harrison it will seem like a blitz, because it will be very difficult to block those two guys with one lineman.

Pappy

Slapstick
06-19-2012, 01:17 PM
There are several different definitions of a blitz...

The definitions as I under stand them are:

1) The defense brings more than 4 rushers

or

2) A player who normally doesn't have the responsibility rushes the passer (ie. Safety, Corner, 3-4 Inside LB)

It's all semantics anyway...

Oviedo
06-19-2012, 01:55 PM
A 4 man rush isn't a blitz from the 3-4 or 4-3 base. The main difference is that the offense has a pretty good idea which 4 men will be rushing when they are facing a 4-3, which I think makes it easier for the OL since they know in advance who they should be blocking. Against a 3-4, will the 3 DL and one of the OLB's rush? Which OLB rushes and which one drops? Will both OLB's rush and 2 of the DL? Which DL will be dropping into a short zone coverage? We could bring both OLB's, our NT, plus an ILB to rush the passer (again, just a 4 man rush, not a blitz), with the 2 DE's dropping into the flat on each side and the remaining ILB in a short middle zone. The 3-4 is much more versatile, even when you aren't necessarily blitzing (and the 3-4 can be potentially devastating once you start mixing unpredictable effective blitzes with a 5th or even 6th rusher). The 4-3 is much more vanilla and straightforward...blah.

You don't think against our defense that the opponents have a pretty good idea that either Woodley or Harrison is rushing. It's usually pretyy obvious to eve a casual observer which one of them is going which is why it wasn't working last year. LeBeau has been far from unpredictable. How often is Timmons turned loose to go on a blitz up the middle. How often do we see corner blitzes throughout the season. Those use to be what made LeBeau great but now many times he seems to be afraid to go after the QB with all his assets. It's almost like he coaching more not to let something bad happen versus making something good happen.

steelz09
06-19-2012, 02:32 PM
My biggest concern is Harrison's health. His body may have taken too much the past several years with his bullrush pass rush and reckless abandon play. I'm not sure we have anyone who can play to his level. Worilds is good but won't be a superstar.

IMO the two keys this season are Woodley being the player he is capable of and LeBeau rediscovering the inside blitz using Timmons and whoever else is manning the "Buck." We have woefully underutilized Timmons' blitz abilities and it has made it easy for opponents to focus on the OLBs.

Timmons is not a great inside blitzer. He has initial burst to get to the QB but he isn't good at getting the QB to the ground. He gets side stepped way to easily by the QB and a RB like Ray Rice has had success picking him up. Farrior lacked the quick burst but he was superior at getting the QB to the ground.

steelz09
06-19-2012, 02:34 PM
You don't think against our defense that the opponents have a pretty good idea that either Woodley or Harrison is rushing. It's usually pretyy obvious to eve a casual observer which one of them is going which is why it wasn't working last year. LeBeau has been far from unpredictable. How often is Timmons turned loose to go on a blitz up the middle. How often do we see corner blitzes throughout the season. Those use to be what made LeBeau great but now many times he seems to be afraid to go after the QB with all his assets. It's almost like he coaching more not to let something bad happen versus making something good happen.

I completely agree. I think Lebeau relies way to much on Polamalu's play making ability. Instead of using corner blitzes and inside blitzes like we should to make turnovers, it's like everyone is waiting for Polamalu to make the big play.

hawaiiansteel
06-21-2012, 02:55 AM
Position battles

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2012
posted by Dale Lolley


I did a radio spot with Greg Linelli today and he asked me about which position battle for the Steelers I am most looking forward to seeing - or at least something along those lines.

To me, I feel the cornerback position will be the most interesting.

Currently, Keenan Lewis is holding down the starting spot opposite Ike Taylor, with second-year players Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen pushing.

One of those three will also serve as the slot corner as well. Brown seems best suited for that position, but Allen's athleticism is hard to deny.

Lewis, however, played very well last season as the third corner and has much more experience than the other two.

Unless Dick LeBeau can come up with a way to get all three corners young corners on the field at the same time, somebody is going to be disappointed.

What position battle are you looking forward to?

@ Speaking of Linelli, he has long been one of the underrated and underutilized radio hosts in the Pittsburgh market.

Soon, he won't be.

Greg is moving on to greener pastures. Good luck to him.

http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/sidelines/

Oviedo
06-21-2012, 07:56 AM
Position battles

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2012
posted by Dale Lolley


I did a radio spot with Greg Linelli today and he asked me about which position battle for the Steelers I am most looking forward to seeing - or at least something along those lines.

To me, I feel the cornerback position will be the most interesting.

Currently, Keenan Lewis is holding down the starting spot opposite Ike Taylor, with second-year players Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen pushing.

One of those three will also serve as the slot corner as well. Brown seems best suited for that position, but Allen's athleticism is hard to deny.

Lewis, however, played very well last season as the third corner and has much more experience than the other two.

Unless Dick LeBeau can come up with a way to get all three corners young corners on the field at the same time, somebody is going to be disappointed.

What position battle are you looking forward to?

@ Speaking of Linelli, he has long been one of the underrated and underutilized radio hosts in the Pittsburgh market.

Soon, he won't be.

Greg is moving on to greener pastures. Good luck to him.

http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/sidelines/


I may be guilty of misremembering but when exactly did Keenan Lewis play last year the way this article intimates? I didn't see anything from him that makes me comfortable that he is a quality starting CB. He couldn't even beat out Gay who is mediocre on a good day.

I'd rather go with Brown or Allen, especially Brown who seems to have a nose for the ball. But LeBeau will likely go with the one who has been around the longest.

Flasteel
06-21-2012, 09:18 AM
You don't think against our defense that the opponents have a pretty good idea that either Woodley or Harrison is rushing. It's usually pretyy obvious to eve a casual observer which one of them is going which is why it wasn't working last year.

Tell that to Kurt Warner.:D

Oviedo
06-21-2012, 09:45 AM
Tell that to Kurt Warner.:D

Don't recall him having any issues in the 2nd half of the Super Bowl. He seemed to have it figured out pretty well. Heck even Tebow had it figured out last year in the playoffs and he is reputed to be terrible reading defenses.

Slapstick
06-21-2012, 09:53 AM
Don't recall him having any issues in the 2nd half of the Super Bowl.

Until that last drive...

ikestops85
06-21-2012, 11:39 AM
I may be guilty of misremembering but when exactly did Keenan Lewis play last year the way this article intimates? I didn't see anything from him that makes me comfortable that he is a quality starting CB. He couldn't even beat out Gay who is mediocre on a good day.

I'd rather go with Brown or Allen, especially Brown who seems to have a nose for the ball. But LeBeau will likely go with the one who has been around the longest.

When the nickle package came on the field Keenan would take the outside and Gay would move over and cover the slot. Lewis was okay last year ... definitely better than what we've seen from him previously.

Given our lack of turnovers last year I'd like them to take a long look at the guy (I can't remember his name) who had the 3 picks in the mini-camp. I don't care if the guys is a first rounder, last rounder or a walk on ... if he can play put him on the field.

grotonsteel
06-21-2012, 12:22 PM
Given our lack of turnovers last year I'd like them to take a long look at the guy (I can't remember his name) who had the 3 picks in the mini-camp. I don't care if the guys is a first rounder, last rounder or a walk on ... if he can play put him on the field.

Terry Carter from Louisiana-Tech

grotonsteel
06-21-2012, 12:30 PM
I don't expect much from Steelers CB. steelers don't have CB like Revis or Asamadi (sp chk). Steelers have couple of first Rd players on D-line. I think its time Dick Lebeau start allowing D-line to collapse the pocket and get to QB. Create havoc upfront and your secondary will look fine.

Steelers D strength is their LB corp but i am worried about them too. Harrison is having a knee injury. Woodley always start slow. Jason Worilds is an unknown.

RuthlessBurgher
06-21-2012, 12:34 PM
Asamadi (sp chk)

You combined his first and last names...Nnamdi Asomugha.

Flasteel
06-21-2012, 12:51 PM
You combined his first and last names...Nnamdi Asomugha.

A confluence perhaps?

RuthlessBurgher
06-21-2012, 01:11 PM
A confluence perhaps?

His name is about as difficult to spell as Monongahela, after all.

Jackson
06-21-2012, 03:51 PM
I don't see how there can be much improvement with Troy a year older and no major personnel upgrades through the draft or free agency. The only real improvement I could see in the pass defense would be through a better pass rush. But that's already as good as it will be. Have the Steelers ever used a 1rst round pick on a CB?

RuthlessBurgher
06-21-2012, 04:31 PM
Have the Steelers ever used a 1rst round pick on a CB?

Chad Scott was the last one.

Crash
06-21-2012, 04:33 PM
Charred freaking Scott. Good grief.

hawaiiansteel
06-21-2012, 06:16 PM
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Cornerbacks

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 by Dave Bryan

The Pittsburgh Steelers open training camp in Latrobe in just over a month from now. With the OTA sessions and mini camp behind us, we can now start to focus on the battles for roster spots for certain positions.

First up in our series is the cornerback position. The Steelers have opened the last two seasons with 6 cornerbacks on the 53 man roster and that could indeed be the case once again this year. Gone from last year are William Gay and Bryant McFadden. The four locks at this time to make the 53 man roster are obvious in Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen. With that being noted, there figures to be at least one if not two roster spots available on the 53 at the cornerback position.

Currently there are four cornerbacks on the Steelers 90 man roster that could compete for those two spots in Terrence Frederick, Terry Carter, Andre Freeman and Walter McFadden. Let's have a look at each

Terrence Frederick - Frederick was drafted by the Steelers in the 7th round this past April out of Texas A&M where he started 45 of 50 career games. He finished his college career with 205 tackles and 6 sacks. He is a little undersized at 5096, and although he played both inside and outside in college, many scouts believe that he is best suited as a nickel back in a 3-4 defense. Frederick was credited with 30 pass break-ups and 4 interceptions in his 50 games at A&M and he also forced 2 fumbles. Despite being regarded as undersized and slow of foot by scouts, General Manager Kevin Colbert termed him quicker than fast following his selection. Frederick makes up for both of those perceived negatives with his ability to quickly diagnose plays and his understanding of good angles. He is a very willing tackler, but very inconsistent in every facet of his game, much like all late round corners. His tackling technique is inconsistent at times, but that can be improved as he seems willing to hit. His main weakness that showed up on film was when he was asked to press or play man coverage. He can close quickly when playing in zone and is usually always around the ball. He figures to only make the 53 man roster if he shows some upside in training camp and ability to play on special teams. Since being drafted, we have not heard the name of Frederick much during all of the OTA sessions and the mini camp. Just because he was drafted in no way makes him a lock for the 53 man roster, but he figures to have the inside track.

Terry Carter - Carter was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech and measures in at 5102. During his college career, Carter recorded 152 total tackles, 61 of which came in his final season. He also was responsible for 18 career pass break-ups, 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in the 47 games he played in. From the limited tape I have watched of Carter, he mostly lined up on the outside left. He can play both man and off, but seems better suited for off coverage in a zone type defense such as the Steelers play. He does not flip his hips very fluidly and tends to turn and run too soon at times. He does seem to close well when the play is in front of him though, but is not really good at fighting off blockers, especially tight ends. His tackle numbers suggest he his willing to hit, but I did not see enough film on him to judge that ability. The good thing about Carter is that we did here is name mentioned a few times by the media during the recent mini camp as he reportedly made a few nice interceptions. Much like Frederick, he will have to show his ability to perhaps play both inside and outside in camp and he must excel in special teams to secure a roster spot.

Walter McFadden - McFadden was signed to the roster just after the 2011 season ended. He was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but only saw action in four games his rookie season. McFadden saw his most playing time against the Miami Dolphins in week 12 of the 2010 season at right cornerback and he did not fare well. He was thrown at 6 times and allowed 5 receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders released the former Auburn product prior to the start of the 2011 season and he eventually landed on the practice squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars in mid October. His stay with the Jaguars did not last long, but following his release he was signed to the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad for one week. McFadden measures in at 5100 and is likely best suited to play inside. He is a real longshot to make the Steelers 53.

Andre Freeman - Freeman was a late arrival as he was signed to roster as an undrafted free agent in May after playing at nearby Slippery Rock. The 5105 cornerback played outside in college and recorded 23 tackles, 1 interception and 2 pass break-ups in 7 games last season. Freeman has been working extensively with Taylor since being signed, and could be a dark horse candidate for a roster spot with a strong training camp. He flashed early in OTA sessions according to a few media reports, but that is the extent of what we have heard about him since his signing. His reps will likely be limited, so he must take advantage of every snap he gets and he must outshine the other roster hopeful cornerbacks on special teams. Freeman did have two punt blocks in one game against Lock Haven in 2009.

In summation, one roster spot is certainly open for one of the four players listed above with the possibility of two making it depending on how the numbers shake out. At this time I would say that McFadden has the longest shot of the four of making the roster. We should get a much better idea on the other three when camp opens as to what order they are getting reps respectively. Special teams is everything to these young cornerbacks, so pay close attention to each when the preseason games get started.

http://network.yardbarker.com/nfl/article_external/2012_pittsburgh_steelers_training_camp_roster_batt les_cornerbacks/11060411

RuthlessBurgher
06-22-2012, 10:18 AM
We usually keep 10 DB's, and the breakdown is typically 6 corners and 4 safeties. I think we might go 5 & 5 this year instead.

At corner, Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, and Curtis Brown will make the team, with Terrence Frederick and Terry Carter likely battling for the 5th CB spot (he who plays best on special teams during the preseason likely makes it).

At safety, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and Ryan Mundy will make the team, with veteran special teamer Will Allen likely joining them (unless we need to open up salary space in order to add Max Starks or extend Wallace to a long-term deal; Allen's cap hit is $1.6 million, and his performance does not match that pay scale...cutting him would save $1.28M). Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, Myron Rolle, and Robert Golden will compete for the #5 safety spot (and possibly #4 as well if Allen gets cut).

hawaiiansteel
06-22-2012, 04:53 PM
Best NFL defense: Ravens or Steelers?

By PFW staff
June 20, 2012

It’s an AFC North battle in the first semifinal matchup of our “In the Trenches” bracket searching for the best defense in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Baltimore Ravens to see who moves on to the championship.

It’s up to the fans to decide who moves on, but here’s what the PFW staff had to say about the matchup:

Senior editor Eric Edholm:
“Even with the loss of Terrell Suggs — and I think he will be back sooner than people realize — the Ravens are the better unit overall, despite last season’s small rankings differences. The Ravens were better in the red zone, they are less dependent on so many 30-somethings, and the young, underrated core of talent gives them the edge in depth. The Ravens are more of a playmaking unit overall and were playing their best ball in the postseason. The Steelers’ defense let the team down in the loss at Denver.”

Associate editor Kevin Fishbain:
“This matchup, like when the two face off on the field, is as close as they come. I’m going to give the slight edge to the Steelers, simply because there are fewer question marks. Terrell Suggs’ injury plus Ed Reed and Ray Lewis reaching the end of their careers helps move the needle to Pittsburgh. While the Steelers’ are far from a young and spry unit, there’s enough talent there that still has years left — most notably James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu. Add to that Dick LeBeau, arguably the best defensive coordinator in the game, and the Steelers, who had the league’s top defense last season, should get the win over their rivals in this round.”

Associate editor Arthur Arkush:
“I am going with the Steelers, but this is easily the most difficult matchup thus far. The biggest reason for my decision is the monster offseason injury of Terrell Suggs, the 2011 NFL Defensive MVP and arguably the most dominant defender in the game. Although the Steelers have had several offseason changes of their own, I think they are better equipped to handle the losses of Aaron Smith and James Farrior with Ziggy Hood and Larry Foote, players who have already proven their worth in this league. Given the task of filling in for Suggs, who hopes to return this season, is rookie Courtney Upshaw, who I think was a great pickup but also a guy who will need time to learn in the NFL. The Ravens have better players coming up the pipeline but Pittsburgh still has the makings of the slightly better 'D' in 2012.”

Producer Mark Schoeck:
“An argument that better personnel makes the better defense doesn’t encompass the full scope of a defensive unit. What does? The numbers. The Steelers were first in total defense and points allowed in 2011. They’ve allowed fewer total yards than the Ravens the past two seasons. Forget their age and the blemishes in their secondary; the Steelers have one of the greatest defensive coordinators in the history of the game to make them the most efficient group in the NFL. The Steelers should advance here.”

Contributing writer Mitch Fraser:
“This is an incredibly close battle between two of the toughest defenses in the past 10 years. I’ll give the slight edge to the Ravens’ 'D.' Although Terrell Suggs is hurt, I think he may be back in time for a playoff push, and although Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are approaching the end of their NFL tenures, they are still two of the savviest and most intelligent football players in the league. They’ve proven they can pick it up a notch in the playoffs, unlike Pittsburgh last year against Denver. Surrounded by young up-and-coming talent and an aggressive, hard-hitting mentality, Lewis and Reed should be able to lead by example and give the Ravens a defensive edge over their division foes in the 2012 season.”

http://www.profootballweekly.com/201...ns-or-steelers (http://www.profootballweekly.com/2012/06/20/best-nfl-defense-ravens-or-steelers)