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Thread: Steelers' secondary needs to improve

  1. #1
    Legend hawaiiansteel's Avatar
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    Steelers' secondary needs to improve

    Kovacevic: Steelers backed into a corner

    By Dejan Kovacevic
    Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012



    The Steelers' Ryan Clark directs his frustation over a third quarter penalty towards the referees at Heinz Field Sunday, October 7, 201

    There might not be a sadder sight, in this or any other realm, than Superman looking vulnerable.

    You should have seen Troy Polamalu dragging along his right leg in a big black boot Tuesday, snailing his way through the Steelers’ headquarters. There still wasn’t any official word on the severity of his aggravated calf injury, but suffice it to say he didn’t need a boot the first time around.

    Sad, indeed.

    Polamalu isn’t done, as so many seem to be fretting. It’s only a calf injury, he’s 31, and he very much has the will to continue what’s already a Hall of Fame career. Even if the cape is folded up for good, the cerebral Clark Kent brand of No. 43 is better than most any NFL safety out there.

    As nickel back Cortez Allen told me Tuesday, “There’s still no one else like him.”

    The real question facing the Steelers is how the secondary will get by in the interim, beginning Thursday night in Tennessee.

    Think they’re up to it?

    I feel that way about Ryan Clark, who’s been terrific apart from a couple notable brain cramps.

    But the rest?

    Ike Taylor had a fine 2011 right up until he met Demaryius Thomas in Denver, both at the end of last season and the start of this one. Whether those wounded him or not, overall this season, he’s allowed 16 completions on the 29 times his receiver has been the pass target, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranks 134th out of 164 cornerbacks in the NFL.

    Yeah, really.

    Taylor can play much better, and he knows it.

    Keenan Lewis, a first-year starter, has allowed 15 completions on 24 targets. That ranks 157th. And his next official pass defensed will be his first.

    Unlike Taylor, no one knows if Lewis can play better. There’s no precedent.

    No one knows if Curtis Brown can replace him, either. The franchise’s highest draft pick among defensive backs in the past six years — third round, 2011 — still can’t find his way to the field.

    Allen has fit in with the rest, allowing 10 completions on 14 targets. That ranks 115th.

    At safety, Mundy has allowed nine completions on 12 targets. That ranks 119th.

    Mike Tomlin strongly hinted Monday that he’ll spell Mundy with Will Allen, but that’s hardly the cavalry. Allen, 30, is in his ninth NFL season and hasn’t made a start since Oct. 4, 2009.

    Answers, anyone?

    Who among these men looks poised to make a difference?

    Naturally, all hands will go up.

    “With Troy not being there, it’ll be tough, but we strive to pick up our game every week,” Cortez Allen said. “The standard is the standard. We’ll get it done.”

    “Even with Troy, we’ve got to get better,” Lewis said.

    Lewis is right, of course, as the above numbers illustrate. There’s ample room to improve.

    But he also made a point to underscore that the Steelers’ overall pass defense numbers are “pretty good,” and he’s right about that, too: They rank third in the NFL in allowing 185 yards per game. Other than Thomas, no individual receiver has topped 67 yards. In fact, beyond Thomas’ 71-yard catch-and-run in the opener, there has been only one other pass of 25 yards or longer.

    “We know the numbers that matter,” Lewis said.

    Those are fair points based on hard numbers. I can respect that.

    As he and Allen both explained, the gap between the team and individual numbers could be based on the defensive coaches, Dick LeBeau and Carnell Lake, hoping to avoid big plays.

    “We’re tackling the catch,” Allen said. “That’s not to say we can’t still do better, but that’s what our focus is.”

    And that works just fine in limiting the big plays. But it wasn’t nearly good enough when the Eagles drip-drip-dripped their way to a 17-play, 79-yard drive that nearly gave the Steelers a 1-3 record Sunday.

    To echo Allen, the Steelers can do better at this position.

    That they haven’t isn’t exactly an accident.

    In the six drafts under Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, they’ve picked only eight defensive backs, none in the top two rounds and only one who found sustained work: That was William Gay, class of 2007. He started last season but was held in such low regard that management didn’t lift a pinky to keep him from walking as a free agent afterward.

    Most of the rest of the picks are barely worth mentioning. One could argue that Polamalu and Clark not only have covered the Steelers’ mistakes on the field, per their job description, but also in the drafts.

    And yet, Tomlin and Colbert brought a roster into Latrobe that had no real fail-safe for Polamalu and/or Clark being hurt at safety, and no real replacement for Gay.

    The reckoning is at hand.

    It might not come against Matt Hasselbeck and a Tennessee offense so plodding that running back Chris Johnson told Nashville reporters this week: “I don’t think we’re close right now.”

    It might not even come before Polamalu returns.

    But it will come. And there will be Hail Mary to pay.

    http://triblive.com/sports/columnist...#ixzz28rdxwgFL

  2. #2
    Now cue all the fans who will read this article and say SEE! They are tackling the catch...playing off the WRs...press em!
    But, these are also the fans who are screaming that we should mail the farm on the blitz. It's difficult to do both. If you press and send 6-7...you won't have enough deep help. If you press, everytime you don't blitz...you telegraph your D. You can't have your cake and eat it too. The only time you can truly play tight on the WRs, and send 6+guys is within the 30. That is a bend but don't break philosophy that has earned the Steelers some pretty impressive D stats and rankings over the years. It's LeBeau's philosophy...like it or not. That is why our DBs have poor stats. This article was not remotely fair to our secondary.

  3. #3
    Hall of Famer Djfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
    Now cue all the fans who will read this article and say SEE! They are tackling the catch...playing off the WRs...press em!
    But, these are also the fans who are screaming that we should mail the farm on the blitz. It's difficult to do both. If you press and send 6-7...you won't have enough deep help. If you press, everytime you don't blitz...you telegraph your D. You can't have your cake and eat it too. The only time you can truly play tight on the WRs, and send 6+guys is within the 30. That is a bend but don't break philosophy that has earned the Steelers some pretty impressive D stats and rankings over the years. It's LeBeau's philosophy...like it or not. That is why our DBs have poor stats. This article was not remotely fair to our secondary.
    Right. While I get the idea that we should be giving a much smaller "LeBeau cushion" even playing up in their grill more often, you are right. It seems that DLB saw the benefit of the adjustment to a different defense within the 30 yard line (I always thought the conventional wisdom was for the 20 yard line), and just asked "Why do we wait until the 30 yard line? Why not do this all the time?" And built a defense on that innovation.

    It would be a LOT better if we had guys who could function up in the grill of the receiver. This would give the opposing QBs a second to pause and wait, making our rush much better. We just don't seem to have these CBs, or we just don't seem to be willing to use them. One or the other.
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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
    Now cue all the fans who will read this article and say SEE! They are tackling the catch...playing off the WRs...press em!
    But, these are also the fans who are screaming that we should mail the farm on the blitz. It's difficult to do both. If you press and send 6-7...you won't have enough deep help. If you press, everytime you don't blitz...you telegraph your D. You can't have your cake and eat it too. The only time you can truly play tight on the WRs, and send 6+guys is within the 30. That is a bend but don't break philosophy that has earned the Steelers some pretty impressive D stats and rankings over the years. It's LeBeau's philosophy...like it or not. That is why our DBs have poor stats. This article was not remotely fair to our secondary.
    That's all well and good. But, you cannot tell me that Tomlin and LeBeau are seriously ok with a secondary that doesn't even come close to making any plays on the ball when it's in the air. Nevermind interceptions, these guys are never in position to make a damn pass deflection most of the time, while each and every week other teams get 3, 4, 5 INTS, in addition to however many deflections and almost INTs they get. Hell, Lance Briggs of the Bears, a LB, has more INTs than the whole damn Steelers secondary, hell the whole damn team. And it seems the only requirement necessary to be a Steelers safety, is to be able to hit hard. Coverage ability is an afterthought(Troy is a wildcard. The last playmaking safety we had around here, not named Troy is now coaching the secondary). Yeah, they may tackle the catch, that's cool, but is it really too much to ask for a secondary to actually make plays on the ball even once in a while? I don't think so, but apparently some people do. And apprently, that includes one Mike Tomlin and one Dick LeBeau. I don't get it.

    In fact, the Steelers lone INT on the season was accident, when the Raiders receiver fell down on the first play of the game and Ryan Clark stumbled into an INT. They hadn't come close to one prior to that, and haven't been close to one since. That's not a good look.

    Rockon
    Last edited by rockonsteel; 10-10-2012 at 09:36 AM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by rockonsteel View Post
    That's all well and good. But, you cannot tell me that Tomlin and LeBeau are seriously ok with a secondary that doesn't even come close to making any plays on the ball when it's in the air. Nevermind interceptions, these guys are never in position to make a damn pass deflection most of the time, while each and every week other teams get 3, 4, 5 INTS, in addition to however many deflections and almost INTs they get. Hell, Lance Briggs of the Bears, a LB, has more INTs than the whole damn Steelers secondary, hell the whole damn team. And it seems the only requirement necessary to be a Steelers safety, is to be able to hit hard. Coverage ability is an afterthought(Troy is a wildcard. The last playmaking safety we had around here, not named Troy is now coaching the secondary). Yeah, they may tackle the catch, that's cool, but is it really too much to ask for a secondary to actually make plays on the ball even once in a while? I don't think so, but apparently some people do. And apprently, that includes one Mike Tomlin and one Dick LeBeau. I don't get it.

    In fact, the Steelers lone INT on the season was accident, when the Raiders receiver fell down on the first play of the game and Ryan Clark stumbled into an INT. They hadn't come close to one prior to that, and haven't been close to one since. That's not a good look.

    Rockon
    The Steelers lose when they give up big plays...that is why DL's philosophy is not to do so...

  6. #6
    Legend hawaiiansteel's Avatar
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    "And yet, Tomlin and Colbert brought a roster into Latrobe that had no real fail-safe for Polamalu and/or Clark being hurt at safety"...

    this is the quote that bothers me the most, did anyone really think Ryan Mundy was the answer at safety in the event of Troy or Ryan Clark not being able to play?

  7. #7
    Legend hawaiiansteel's Avatar
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    just heard that Will Allen is starting at SS instead of Ryan Mundy, with the way Mundy has been playing I can't say I'm surprised.

  8. #8
    Legend RuthlessBurgher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel View Post
    just heard that Will Allen is starting at SS instead of Ryan Mundy, with the way Mundy has been playing I can't say I'm surprised.
    Ugh...while Mundy hasn't exactly been "above the line" this year, I fear that Will Allen is so far below the line, that James Cameron's submersible hasn't found it yet.


  9. #9
    Legend hawaiiansteel's Avatar
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    anybody know how many pass interference penalties have been called on Ike Taylor so far this season?

  10. #10
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    I can count about 5.. and watching the Philly replay he got away with a blatant PI in the endzone.

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