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    Default Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

    Pittsburgh Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

    Published: Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 5:51 PM




    AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

    Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu talks with a teammate during the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Pittsburgh.


    LATROBE, Pa. — The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with so many issues during a training camp that’s about to end, one of their major worries sometimes gets overlooked.

    Except by secondary coach Ray Horton.

    The Steelers are busy enough while trying to find enough playing time for multiple quarterbacks during camp, fixing their running game and patching up their offensive line. If they don’t get their secondary straightened out, however, these other problems might not seem as urgent.

    A year after having the league’s best pass defense while winning the Super Bowl, the Steelers fell to No. 16 last season. They gave up the most passing yards in the league while leading in games, and the third most yards in the fourth quarter. They made only eight interceptions, one fewer than Troy Polamalu had by himself in 2008.

    Polamalu’s lengthy injury absences played a major role in the Steelers’ falloff — he played in only three full games, all of them victories. Still, Polamalu’s health wasn’t the secondary’s only issue.

    According to Football Outsiders’ defensive charts, Steelers cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay were two of the NFL’s five worst defenders in first downs and touchdowns allowed, with Taylor permitting a combined 40 and Gay 36.

    The Steelers brought back former starter Bryant McFadden following one season with Arizona, working a draft day deal to get him. With Arizona, he ranked third among cornerbacks with 37 first downs and touchdowns permitted.

    No doubt the Steelers weren’t the same without one of the NFL’s best safeties for most of the season. But Polamalu can’t help cornerbacks when they’re in one-on-one coverage, as the Steelers’ corners often are in the 3-4 defense. Gay, who became a starter when McFadden signed with Arizona a year ago, didn’t have a good season — he knows it and his coach knows it.

    “I think if you talked to William directly, he would say he became a little full of himself,” Horton said. “I’m sure he thought, ‘I’m here, I’ve arrived.’ I think he’s more humble this year and he’s working hard.”

    The Steelers also re-signed safety Ryan Clark to a contract that pays him an average of $3.5 million per year over four seasons. Clark seemed to be signing with Miami, but a phone call from Polamalu helped persuade him to stay.

    Clark won’t say he had a poor season in 2009 without Polamalu, but admittedly tried to do too much to compensate for the absence of one of the NFL’s best playmakers. Polamalu hurt his left knee in the season opener against Tennessee, missed four games, returned to play three, then reinjured the same knee against Cincinnati on Nov. 15 and didn’t play again the rest of the season.

    The Steelers lost that Bengals game and the next four without him.

    “It’s good to be back, and be healthy,” Polamalu said.

    It’s good for Horton to see Polamalu back, too, if only because he knows how much it improves his secondary. While Polamalu is one of the best players at his position in the league, Horton said Polamalu has rededicated himself during training camp to improving. The Steelers finish up camp Thursday at Saint Vincent College.

    “If you ask him, I don’t think Troy will say he had a good year last year,” Horton said. “That’s our mentality. If we think we’re there, we’re foolish. Does Troy need to get better? Uh, huh. Otherwise, we wouldn’t let him come to practice, he’d just go home to California and show up for games.”

    It’s a secondary that’s getting older, too, even without former starter Deshea Townsend, who wasn’t brought back after 11 seasons. Taylor and Clark are 30, Polamalu is 29 and McFadden is 28. Clark and McFadden will have birthdays during the season.

    The age factor is one reason why 2009 draft picks Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett figure to play more after mostly being on special teams last season.

    “We’re going to let the season speak for us on that,” said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who at 73 doesn’t like hearing that age matters. “I think this defense has an excellent blend of experience, middle-year guys and young guys. I think we will demonstrate that when we start playing.”

    http://blog.pennlive.com/patriotnews...know_they.html

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    Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

    They gave up the most passing yards in the league while leading in games, and the third most yards in the fourth quarter.
    ... I think I just threw-up in my mouth again..... Bad memories that need fixing....
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    Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

    Here's some other fun stuff to make one throw up in their mouths

    In 2008 the Steelers defense gave up 2 pass plays of 40 yards and more (1 of them was a very lucky bounce off of Ike Taylor's fingertips into Reggie Wayne's hands)... in 2009 we gave up 9 such plays

    In 2008 we gave up just 23 pass plays of 20 yards or more. In 2009 we gave up 46 such plays.

    In both of those instances we doubled or more than tripled the previous year numbers and not in a good way either.

    In 2008 we gave up an Average yards per pass play of 5.4. In 2009 we gave up 6.9. That's a significant increase

    Actually a better number than YPA which just tells you how far the ball goes on average between QB and Reciever is YPC (yards per completion). This shows how many total yards are made on average per completion. Now this can be skewed because as 30 yard completion can take a 5 yarder and inflate it...

    in 2009 we had an 11.8 YPC which was 10th worst in the league in 2009 we were ranked #1 with a 9.5 YPC. You're talking more than 2 yards more on average we were worse and that is very significant. To put that inh perspective. In 2008 the worst team sat at 13.2 so you know there's a big difference even if the numbers look small.

    Here's a fantastic number. It's an adjusted net yards gained by pass attempt. It figures in sacks and interceptions..

    In 2008 the Steelers ranked #1 with a 3.0 Adjusted Y/G. In 2009 we ranked 14th with a 5.8 A Y/G. We almost doubled 2008's numbers.

    also don't forget that when you look at the results for the Passing Defense last year remember that this didn't come at the expense of good QB's. We didn't face Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, Tom Brady .. we faced TWO top 10 QB's last year in Favre and Rogers and Rogers lit our secondary up for 383 passing yards.
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    Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

    Quote Originally Posted by hawaiiansteeler View Post
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    Except by secondary coach Ray Horton.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kipper View Post
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    In 2008 we gave up just 23 pass plays of 20 yards or more. In 2009 we gave up 46 such plays.
    It's actually too early in the day for me to get on my "Ray Horton" kick...

    His style at Detroit, Cincinnati, and Washington is showing brightly here in Pgh...
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    Default Re: Steelers know they must fix leaky pass defense

    8/19/2010
    McFadden, Polamalu are keys to plugging leaky pass defense
    By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer dlolley@observer-reporter.com

    LATROBE - The Baltimore Ravens acquired Anquan Boldin. The Cincinnati Bengals picked up Terrell Owens.

    To say teams in the AFC North Division spent the offseason trying to improve their passing games would be an understatement.

    The Steelers are hoping that the return of a couple of familiar faces can help stem the tide against those improved passing attacks.

    After falling from first in the league against the pass in 2008 to 16th last year, the Steelers set about reworking their secondary. Cornerback Bryant McFadden, a starter on that 2008 defense before signing as a free agent with Arizona, was brought back in a draft-day trade. The other new guy in the secondary? Strong safety Troy Polamalu, who was limited to five games last year while struggling with a knee injury.

    "It's a work in progress," head coach Mike Tomlin said of his reworked secondary. "They need to continue to be a group on the rise. I think they will. That's a position where you get better the more you work together. The cohesiveness in that group is very similar to what is required on the offensive line. The more snaps they get, hopefully, the better they'll be."

    That cohesion is one reason the Steelers felt so good about bringing McFadden back. A second-round draft pick in 2005, McFadden had ascended to a starting role in 2008, helping Pittsburgh to its sixth Super Bowl championship. But when Arizona offered him a two-year, $10-million deal following that season, McFadden spurned the Steelers' last-ditch effort to re-sign him and followed the money.

    "Knowing now what I know, I would have taken what the Steelers offered and stayed here," said McFadden, who has replaced William Gay at cornerback opposite Ike Taylor.

    Not only did McFadden struggle with the Cardinals, whose 3-4 defense has different requirements than Pittsburgh's for its cornerbacks, the Steelers struggled without McFadden.

    "It was a 3-4 defense, but it's not the same 3-4 defense," McFadden said. "They try to copy some of the things the Steelers do, but it's not the same."

    Compounding the Steelers' secondary problems last year was Polamalu's injury. After spraining his knee in Pittsburgh's season-opening win over Tennessee, Polamalu missed four games. He returned to play in the next four games but again injured his knee, ending his season.

    Despite missing 11 games and playing only part of two others, Polamalu tied free safety Ryan Clark for the team lead with three interceptions. Pittsburgh's cornerbacks finished with two interceptions, one each by Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend, who is no longer with the team.

    The Steelers were 4-1 in games Polamalu started in 2009 en route to a 9-7 finish.

    "It's good to be back, and be healthy," Polamalu said. "It was difficult not just to watch the defense struggle."

    The Steelers are hoping that McFadden, who had seven interceptions in four seasons with the Steelers, can help improve the takeaway total.

    "(McFadden) knows this defense. He knows how to play the ball," said Taylor. "When we had him the last time, everybody saw what we could do."

    McFadden didn't get to see a lot of what went wrong last year. But he feels the Steelers can be better in the secondary this season, despite what their division foes have added.

    "When I was here before, we not only reached all of our position goals, we also reached all of our team goals as well," he said. "There's no reason why we can't do the same thing again this year."

    [HIGH-LIGHT]Odds and end zones[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    Rookie running back Jonathan Dwyer (shoulder) returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis. ... Running back Isaac Redman experienced shin splints during the afternoon session but was able to finish practice. ... The Steelers will practice this morning before breaking camp. When they return to practice next week, they will do so at their practice facility on Pittsburgh's South Side.

    http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/...lers-secondary
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