Ed: More Sacks Might Mean More Picks


Good morning,

The Steelers have two interceptions through five games. This, after they managed just 11 all last season, tying their all-time low in their modern history, which began in 1969.

Their pace this season, then, would be their all-time low of six. Six interceptions! They’ve had more than that in one game – 7 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs in 1974, on the road to boot (that’s another issue for another day, playing on the road). Jack Butler once intercepted four passes in a game in 1953 against the Washington Redskins (again on the road). Mel Blount holds the team record with 11 in the 1975 seasons and three others have had 10, including Butler and fellow Hall of Famer Bil Dudley.

Maybe you have to be a Hall of Fame cornerback to intercept passes. No one is suggesting there are any at cornerback on this team. There isn’t even a Pro Bowl cornerback and hasn’t been since Rod Woodson left. It’s the biggest drought at Pro Bowl at any position on the team.

If they are hitting you smack in the hands with no one else around and you still can’t pick them off, is there any hope? Why would anyone think they’ll suddenly turn into pass thieves this season after they hit their all-time low last season? Here’s why: They intercepted 21 passes in 2010. Of course, they also had 48 sacks that season (compared to just 35 last season). Ryan Clark is among those who believe the two go hand in hand.

“As the pressure increases and as we’re able to get to the quarterback, move him off a spot and rattle him, we’ll have more opportunities for interceptions,’’ Clark told me yesterday.

The question thus becomes, will that happen? Can they get to the quarterback? They have 12 sacks in five games. That comes to 38 sacks, not much more than last season. If they cannot get more pressure on the quarterback, don’t look for more interceptions. Even though they went 12-4 last season with only 35 sacks and 11 interceptions, it will be hard for them to duplicate that record if they don’t turn up the heat on defense in this one.

Onto some stuff:

--- No defense has been hit harder than Baltimore’s. They managed to go 5-1 without Terrell Suggs, but without Ray Lewis and cornerback Ladarius Webb, no defense has been hit harder. Steelers fans won’t feel sorry for them, but there has to be empathy, knowing what the Steelers defense has and is going through the past two seasons with injuries.

--- No, Ike Taylor is not going to be benched. You have to have someone to replace him and the Steelers cannot come close. If Mike Tomlin were going to bench a cornerback, he would have done so in 2009 when he promised changes in the lineup and then made none other than to his nickel cornerback.

--- The dropped pass by Keenan Lewis that likely cost the Steelers a victory in Tennessee, recalled the drop pass by Joe Burnett that cost the Steelers a victory against Oakland in that 2009 season and thus a playoff spot. Burnett seemed to be a promising rookie cornerback at the time, a fifth-round draft pick. However, that dropped interception on Dec. 6 was among the last things he would do in the NFL. He was among the Steelers final cuts before the 2010 season. He played for the Jacksonville sharks of the UFL in 2011 and is now on the roster of the CFL Edmonton Eskimos, where on July 20 he set a team record with a 108-yard interception return.

Your questions:

--- YOU: Probably meaningless, but there has been a recent change in listed positions on the Steelers.com roster. Colon is now listed as T and Pouncey is listed as C/G. It wasn't like that just a few days ago.

ME: You, sir, are spending way too much time on the computer. No, a glitch, most likely.

--- YOU: Enjoyed your article on Steeler books, especially a forthcoming book on Chuck Noll. Is there any way to petition NFL Network/Films to produce Chuck Noll A Football Life? If they can produce episodes with a known cheater in Belichek and an accessory to murder in Ray Lewis, they should make one with a class act like Chuck. I believe he has never got his due because he never wanted the limelight like John Madden or Jimmy Johnson. What are your thoughts?

ME: I don’t think the NFL Network recognizes much exists from the 20th century. That, by the way, was Chuck’s choice not to seek the limelight and he was very happy out of it. He did make the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the only coach with four Super Bowl victories.

--- YOU: Hi, Ed. I know this was a long time ago and Steelers’ fans tend to have short memories, but in ’95 the team was 3-4 after 7 games and made it to the Super Bowl. At 2-3, do you see this team being able to turn it around and have a successful season? I don’t see the leadership on the team in’12 that there was in ’95. Thanks!

ME: yes, they can do it. Will they, is the question. How do you like Baltimore this morning at 5-1 but with all those injuries? I don’t know about a Super Bowl, but the AFC North is wide open. People keep bringing up “leadership” as if that’s a problem. I know of no lack of leadership on this team. That’s an easy excuse for people to use.

--- YOU: Where are the new impact players needed to sustain the traditional level of Steeler line play?

ME: They have yet to make an impact. Remember that 3-4 defensive lineman rarely make big plays, but so far the ordinary ones are not being made as consistently either.

--- YOU: What do you have to say about what seems to be recurring injuries to Pouncy, Mendenhall, Polamalu and even Harrison and Woodley?

ME: That they play football and injuries occur.