Timing is right for Harrison, Steelers
November 6th, 2009
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The difference between outside linebacker James Harrison getting one sack in September and registering seven of them in October? Not much.
That is what the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year said earlier this week.
“I might be getting there just a step faster, playing better. Defense may be holding a step longer,” said Harrison, who is on pace to break the Steelers’ single-season sack record (16) that he set in 2008. “To be honest with you we played better defense this past month than when we did at the beginning of the season. Beginning of the season it was a step late. This recent month we were actually getting there.”
The defense’s inability to get off the field in the fourth quarter of back-to-back losses to the Bears and Bengals in September raised questions about whether age had encroached on a unit that is stocked with veterans.
Or whether opposing teams had solved defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and his famed zone blitzes.
The loss of strong safety Troy Polamalu for four games because of a sprained knee changed the complexion of the defense. And they no doubt tied the masterful hands of LeBeau to a degree.
But even a defense that dominated the opposition in 2008 – the Steelers were first in the NFL in scoring, passing and total defense – and returned all but two starters this season needed a little time to come together.
That is why inside linebacker James Farrior said he didn’t worry when the defense allowed prolonged touchdown drives at the end games in September when the Steelers needed a stop.
“I’ve always thought we could get pressure if we executed right,” Farrior said. “I think it’s just a matter of getting out timing down. It’s a lot like quarterback with receivers, getting that timing down. You can only get better with reps. I definitely think we’re a better team now than we were a couple of weeks ago.”