A rather obvious statement for an article title, and a very real issue...
Sacks are Steelers' priority
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer
PITTSBURGH - Much of the focus in the offseason was on the 47 sacks recorded against Pittsburgh last season. But it could have easily been the Steelers' own lack of a pass rush.
The Steelers had just 36 sacks, their fewest since 2003 and the third-fewest total since 1990.
Rectifying that in 2008 is a priority.
Through three preseason games, the results have been pretty good. With one preseason game remaining, Pittsburgh has 10 sacks, with eight coming from front-line players in limited playing time.
"We've got some guys individually that are rushing well," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "They haven't played complete games. You envision those guys putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback."
Increased roles for second-year linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley have made the biggest difference. The return of a healthy Aaron Smith at defensive end, and Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison now having a full season as a starter under his belt also helps.
"I think LaMarr Woodley has created a lot of pressure in the time that he's played. James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Aaron Smith (each have) two sacks," Tomlin said. "When you look at the performance of those men, project it over the course of four quarters, I like where it is."
Woodley, who takes over at left outside linebacker for Clark Haggans, thinks there is no limit to the kind of havoc the defense can create this season.
"We can be real good, probably one of the best," said Woodley, who had four sacks in limited playing time as a rookie.
The Steelers have been doing a good job in the preseason of winning individual battles at the line of scrimmage. They have blitzed on occasion, particularly with Timmons up the middle, but many of the sacks have come from players winning those one-on-one battles.
Once defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau starts breaking down film of opponents and devising ways of attacking the weak points, might things get really bad for opponents?
"When we start putting a package together and really start getting after people, it's going to be a whole other defense," said Woodley.
"You try to find a weakness or things you think you can take advantage of once you sit down and start watching film. When you find that, you want to hit those spots and expose the offense. I think we will go out there this season and do that."