Steelers prepare for Ravens' blitz
Pittsburgh knows team will be sending relentless pass rush on Monday night
By Alan Robinson | The Associated Press
3:24 PM EDT, September 25, 2008
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PITTSBURGH - Willie Colon doesn't need to be warned what the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line will see Monday night.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis rushing up the middle. Terrell Suggs coming from one angle, Jarret Johnson from another. Trevor Pryce might be coming from anywhere.
"Oh, they're coming, they're coming," said Colon, the Steelers' right tackle. "Why not? Wouldn't you?"
Colon even suggested Ravens coach John Harbaugh "may take off the headphones and come off the sidelines and rush Ben [Roethlisberger]."
The Philadelphia Eagles gave the rest of the NFL a blueprint for confusing the Steelers by employing a relentless pass rush during their 15-6 victory Sunday -- one of Pittsburgh's worst offensive games in the last quarter-century.
The ceaseless pressure resulted in nine sacks, a safety, a fumble and an interception. During one eight-play span, Roethlisberger was sacked five times and committed two turnovers.
The Steelers are convinced the Ravens, already one of the NFL's most aggressive defenses, will try to do much the same thing Monday night, especially with Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker out with a knee injury.
As Colon said, why wouldn't they?
"For the most part, it was just a lot of communication errors we had that you can't have and we understand that," Colon said. "We've got to pick it up and be more accountable as a unit. You've got to be able to make sure it don't happen again."
Still, nullifying the Ravens' pass rush can't be accomplished by making a tweak here or a minor correction there, and the Steelers know it. The Ravens had five sacks Sunday in beating Cleveland 28-10, scored on an interception and drove for another touchdown following an interception.
"They're looking at it, 'If we sack Ben, we're in the game,'" wide receiver Hines Ward said. "We're looking at it as we need to correct all those mistakes and, if we do, we'll be OK."
As good as the Ravens defense is -- they have allowed the fewest yards in the league -- Ward said they take chances that can be exploited downfield if Roethlisberger has time to throw and the receivers don't break off their routes.
"Until you fix it, it's going to be the same thing," left tackle Marvel Smith said. "We did some good things [in practice] in terms of fixing it, in terms of our communication."
Against Philadelphia, the Steelers (2-1) may have badly missed longtime All-Pro guard Alan Faneca, who signed with the Jets during the offseason. Faneca couldn't have stopped the pass rush by himself, but he might have prevented some of the panic that Chris Kemoeatu, his replacement, detected.
"We can't panic," Kemoeatu said. "Last week they got us early in the game and we kind of panicked. We've just got to recuperate."
Now the Steelers understand how their opponents felt years ago when their defense was known as Blitzburgh for all the unusual blitzing schemes concocted by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
"We're expecting Baltimore to bring everything at us," said center Justin Hartwig, the other new offensive line starter this season. "If they saw that last game, they're going to bring it, and there's no doubt about it. And they're going to be coming from everywhere. But that's what we're going to be practicing with all week. ... We will be able to pick those things up."
One Steelers worry is this isn't a one-week trend; Roethlisberger's 93 sacks the last two seasons were the most of any NFL quarterback.
Another concern: Despite their 38-7 loss in Pittsburgh last season, the Ravens have won four of their last five against the Steelers.
And, no matter how many carries he gets, rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall must do some blocking, and this will be his first NFL start.
"They're going to come, they're coming hard and they're going to try to get into [Mendenhall's] head early in the game," said Parker, who could miss two games with his injury. "I'm going to be in his ear and helping him out, that's just the nature of this business. He's a first-round draft pick and you've got to get him ready for times like this."