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Thread: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

      
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    Default On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010
    By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



    Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

    Linebacker James Harrison and the Steelers defense limited kicker Matt Bryan and the Falcons to three field goals Sunday.


    Three more games like that from the Steelers' defense and the welcome home party for Ben Roethlisberger Oct. 4 could be a meaningful one.

    As it was, the Steelers' defense slammed Atlanta's ground game, holding the Falcons to 58 yards, muzzled quarterback Matt Ryan with a 67.6 passer rating, kept them out of the end zone, presented the game to the offense on a platter with an interception late in the fourth quarter, and still needed overtime to win.

    That may be just how it goes for the Steelers the first month of the season. If they are to win any more games before Roethlisberger's return at quarterback for the fifth game, their defense will have to duplicate what it did in the opener Sunday at Heinz Field.

    "That's something we want to do every week," said linebacker James Farrior, who played as if he were 30 again. "It's not just because Ben is out. We know the circumstances right now, we know we need to help our offense out more than usual, but we definitely want to play that way no matter what. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are."

    Those change this week to a higher amp. The Steelers and young quarterback Dennis Dixon not only must play in the din that is the Nashville sound at the Tennessee Titans home stadium, but they also must contain the freight train that is running back Chris Johnson and his 12 consecutive 100-yard games rushing.

    The Steelers did a good job against a good back Sunday, holding Atlanta's Michael Turner to 42 yards on 19 carries and the Falcons to 58 yards rushing overall and a 2.3-yard average. Chris Johnson is not a good back, he's a great back. He became only the sixth NFL runner to top 2,000 yards rushing last season and he began his 2010 quest with 142 yards Sunday against Oakland.

    He is the next assignment for a defense that has allowed one 100-yard rusher since late in the 2007 season. And his name is not Chris Johnson. Baltimore's Ray Rice did the trick Dec. 27 in Heinz Field, rushing for 141 yards on 30 carries, and to go against all convention, the Steelers withstood that to beat the Ravens, 23-20.

    On the other hand, Johnson is 0 for 2 against the Steelers. He ran 16 times for 69 yards as a rookie in the Titans' 31-14 victory in 2008 at Tennessee. And he ran 15 times for 57 yards last season in the opener at Heinz Field, won by the Steelers in overtime, 13-10.

    The Steelers also must contend with quarterback Vince Young, who can match Dennis Dixon's versatility and mobility. They will be forced to take a different approach in their pass rush against Young than they did the pocket passer Matt Ryan in the opener.

    "I feel like this is the kind of game we need to play every week, whether Dennis is in or Ben is back in," linebacker James Harrison said. "We need to come out there and keep teams from scoring touchdowns and hope to stop them from scoring any points. We held them to three field goals and that was enough to get job done."

    Barely enough, but enough.

    Starks out
    The Steelers will have to start their third new offensive lineman and second new tackle when they play the Titans.

    Max Starks has a high left ankle sprain, which can keep a player out 2-4 weeks. Jonathan Scott replaced him Sunday and will be a candidate to start there in Tennessee.

    "As of this point, I believe it's going to remain the way it is," Scott said shortly after the game. "But there's a hierarchy and I just have to go with the flow and be prepared to go when that time comes."

    The Steelers signed Scott to a one-year contract in March as an unrestricted free agent from Buffalo, shortly after Mike Tomlin hired former Bills line coach Sean Kugler to be his line coach.

    Scott started 14 games in his career that began in Detroit after the Lions drafted him in the fifth round in 2006 from Texas. He had been almost exclusively at right tackle since joining the Steelers, but he started six games at left tackle for the Bills last season.

    "I played left tackle during my career," Scott said.

    "I prepared to play it in Buffalo and Detroit so it wasn't something that was just sprung up on me."

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10257...#ixzz0zXKau8lp

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    1 Down, 3 to go for Roethlisberger-less Steelers

    BY ALAN ROBINSON





    PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers realize it could have been a whole lot worse.

    Dennis Dixon could have easily thrown another couple of interceptions. The defense could have allowed a single touchdown. Jeff Reed could have missed that 52-yard field goal.

    If any one of those had happened, the Steelers might be staring at a possible 1-3 or 0-4 start without suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Instead, they played just well enough to beat the Atlanta Falcons 15-9 in overtime on Sunday — a victory that told them that, unlike many NFL teams, they're good enough to win with their No. 3 quarterback.

    That was one big sigh of relief exhaled by an entire football team after Rashard Mendenhall's 50-yard touchdown run won it.

    For more than five months, the Steelers knew they must get by for a month or longer at the start of the season without the quarterback who was good enough to win two Super Bowls in four seasons. They were convinced they had enough left to win without him but, until they actually did it, there was always that lingering doubt.

    After all, the Steelers hadn't won a game without Roethlisberger at quarterback since Charlie Batch started and won the 2006 season opener against Miami, a few days after Roethlisberger had an appendectomy.

    Now, they might have to win for a couple of weeks without left tackle Max Starks, who has a high ankle sprain in his left leg and seems certain to miss at least one game. Such injuries commonly sideline a player for multiple weeks. He was replaced by former Bills tackle Jonathan Scott.

    "We've got some things to work on, absolutely, like all 31 other teams do," coach Mike Tomlin said. "But we get to do it while we're 1-0."

    Winning at Tennessee (1-0) on Sunday will be more difficult. Still, the Steelers believe if their defense can keep performing at a 2008-like level, Roethlisberger will be trying not to save the Steelers' season once he returns Oct. 17 against Cleveland, but to keep it going.

    "Obviously, we seized the moment," said Dixon, who had a relatively rough start yet still managed the offense well enough to lead four scoring drives.

    For this game, it wasn't about who was missing but who was back — safety Troy Polamalu and end Aaron Smith on a defense was No. 5 overall in the league last season but didn't really play up to such a level. There were too many long completions, too many blown leads in the fourth quarter, too many wide receivers who got loose downfield only a season after the Steelers had one of the best years statistically by any NFL defense since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

    One of the big question marks about these Steelers was how a defense loaded with players who are 30 or older would respond after such a season. Whether a defense that has been one of the NFL's best for years was getting too old and fragile to play at a top-of-the-league level. Whether Polamalu and Smith would hold up after being injured and out much of last season.

    For one game, this was the answer: The Falcons moved the ball inside the Steelers 20 on only one of 13 possessions.

    "That was a great way for our defense to start," James Farrior said.

    This week, that defense will be challenged by Titans running back Chris Johnson, who ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns Sunday in Tennessee's 38-13 victory over Oakland. Johnson is the NFL's leading rusher since the start of the 2008 season, and is the only running back during that time to average more than 100 yards per game (105.5 yards).

    However, only the Vikings have allowed fewer yards rushing than the Steelers during that period. Since 2005, the Steelers have given up only four 100-yard games.

    "That's a great defense over there," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

    http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/39160120/ns/sports-nfl/

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    All I know is the Steelers, Tomlin and Arians better go into this game with the mindset of actually scoring more than 9 points. Can't be overly conservative, although I bet that's what happens. It's pretty unfair and unrealistic to ask a defense to win a game on the road with your offense scoring less than 10 points. It can happen but the odds aren't great, IMO.

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    I can't see where the Titans have a defense that compares to the Stillers...

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Titans Offense Ain't All That Either...

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Between Dixon and the Stiller Offense/Defence We'll put up 24...Titans 17... And That Would Be A Generous 17...

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Quote Originally Posted by The Keystoner View Post
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    Between Dixon and the Stiller Offense/Defence We'll put up 24...Titans 17... And That Would Be A Generous 17...

    I believe in order to win that our defense needs to limit the Titans to 17 points or less.

    that way we can kick 6 FGs and win 18-17...

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Quote Originally Posted by hawaiiansteeler View Post
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    I believe in order to win that our defense needs to limit the Titans to 17 points or less.

    that way we can kick 6 FGs and win 18-17...
    So Disagree...Stillers 24

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Quote Originally Posted by The Keystoner View Post
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    So Disagree...Stillers 24

    Stillers 24 - Titans 17 sounds good to me!

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Quote Originally Posted by hawaiiansteeler View Post
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    Stillers 24 - Titans 17 sounds good to me!
    I really hope so... I think it's gonna be "tough sledding" this Sunday....
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Tough test for defense

    By Teresa Varley - Steelers.com


    The Steelers defense will have their hands full this week attempting to if not stop, at least contain Titans running back Chris Johnson.

    Johnson had an amazing 2009 season, rushing for an impressive 2,006 yards and he hasn’t slowed down a bit. And he has the breakaway speed that can change the complexion of a game in a heartbeat.

    “This guy can run through the back of the end zone every time he touches the football,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “There’s an element of respect that comes with preparing for a guy that is capable of those things. We are familiar with him, we’ve played against him. He stuck his foot in the ground and cut back across our field, and got some yards in chunks on us. That’s a big challenge.”

    Last week the Oakland Raiders thought they had Johnson under control until he broke free for a 76-yard touchdown and finished the day with 142 yards rushing.
    “He is the fastest guy on the field when he is out there,” said linebacker James Farrior. “We are going to have to be responsible for keeping him contained and not letting him get outside. We take that as a challenge. Our defense will be a little extra fired up this week.”

    Johnson is going for his 13th consecutive 100-yard game this week, closing in on tying Barry Sanders’ NFL record 14-straight 100-yard games. If the Steelers have their way, it will be unlucky 13 for Johnson.

    “Normally we don’t give up those,” said nose tackle Chris Hoke of opposing 100-yard rushing games. “Usually we shut those guys under 100 yards. He’s done a great job. I don’t know what he’s done against us 100-yard wise in the last couple of years. We’re going to go out there and our goal is to hold him under 100 yards.

    “That is our goal this Sunday. It’s not going to change because it’s him, even though he is one of the best backs in the NFL. We are going to go out there and continue to do what we do.”

    What has Johnson done against the Steelers in two appearances? In 2008 he rushed for 69 yards and in 2009 was held to 57 yards.

    “We need to keep him in front of us,” said Hoke. “Keep their offense off the field. Get off the field on third down; don’t give them a first down and the opportunity to run the ball. When you give them another set of downs that’s when he starts to get his yardage. Every time he has the ball in his hands he has the opportunity to break a big run.”

    * * *

    Hoke could be a huge factor in Sunday’s game in Tennessee as Casey Hampton’s status is unknown with a hamstring injury. Hampton didn’t practice on Wednesday and Hoke is preparing to start just in case.

    “It’s a different mentality,” said Hoke. “When you are a back up you have to be ready to go. You are sitting on the sidelines for 30 plays and all of a sudden you have to be ready to go. If my number is called I’ll have to go from the first snap and carry the load that Casey does and help this defense prosper.”

    One thing working in his favor is Hoke has a pretty good track record when starting. The Steelers have a 14-1 record with him in the starting line-up, the only blemish in 2006 against the Oakland Raiders.

    “He has been there, done that,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “I think we are undefeated when he is starting. We always hold that against Hamp and tell him Hoke is undefeated and we don’t know why we are playing with you Hamp. We know he can come in and play well.”

    Steelers Injury Update: Did not participate in practice on Wednesday - WR Arnaz Battle (knee), DE Nick Eason (not injury related), LB James Farrior (not injury related), DT Casey Hampton (hamstring), DE Aaron Smith (not injury related), T Max Starks (ankle), WR Hines Ward (not injury related). Limited participation in practice on Wednesday - QB Byron Leftwich (knee), WR Emmanuel Sanders(quadricep), LB Jason Worilds (shoulder).

    http://www.steelers.com/news/article...a-da745523bec5

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    The Steelers are going to "pick 6" Vince Young, that will help ease the burden on the offense. I just hope that Dixon doesn't return the favor, lol.

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Defense controls team fate

    Cook: Steelers' Farrior takes pride in team's defense

    Friday, September 17, 2010



    Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
    Steeler linebacker James Farrior: "I don't feel old. I feel strong. It's all in your head."


    Let's start by looking back -- to the Steelers' impressive 15-9 overtime win Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, to the huge role played by their defense to give the team a chance to be successful in the first of four games they will be without suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That sure beats looking ahead -- to the game Sunday at Tennessee, where the Steelers are 1-8, to the matchup against Titans All-World running back Chris Johnson. "The fastest man I've ever seen," Steelers linebacker James Farrior called him this week. "I can't think of anyone faster ... "

    Wait a minute.

    Stop right there.

    I said we would start by looking back.

    Farrior loved that idea.

    "We looked good," he said after reviewing tape of the Atlanta game. "Guys were flying around. We didn't have a lot of mental mistakes. It felt like we were in control of whatever they wanted to do."

    Farrior is the captain of the defense. Any dedicated, caring parent can relate to how he feels after a game. When his guys struggle, as they did last season when the defense blew five fourth-quarter leads and the Steelers missed the playoffs by one game, he hurts and takes it personally. But when they do great things, as they did Sunday when they held Falcons running back Michael Turner to 42 yards and the Atlanta offense to three field goals, he is the proudest man on the planet.

    "It means a lot to me because I have a lot of say-so with this group," Farrior said. "I make the calls and get them lined up. To be able to do that for these guys is special."

    Farrior is closest to the linebackers. He is one, right? He lines up inside in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme next to fourth-year pro Lawrence Timmons, who might have been the best player on the field Sunday. Dominating just as he did during training camp and in the exhibition games, Timmons was credited with 11 tackles -- three for losses -- and also had a quarterback pressure.

    "It's his time. He should have a Pro Bowl season," Farrior said. "The mental part of his game has caught up with his talent. He was young when he first got here. Just 20 years old. He didn't know what to do or what to expect or how to be a pro. He knows now. I tell him all the time. No one can block him. He just needs to go out and play."

    Outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison each had a sack against the Falcons. "Business as usual for those two," Farrior said, shrugging. Harrison also forced Falcons offensive tackle Sam Baker into a drive-killing holding penalty in overtime.

    "They were in [quarterback Matt Ryan's] face all day and I think he felt the heat," Farrior said. "Those guys brought great pressure all day."

    And how about the old guy of the group? No. 51?

    "I played good," Farrior said. "I missed a couple of tackles. I know I missed one on Turner in the backfield and he ended up having his longest run of the day -- 7 yards. But, overall, it was pretty good."

    Farrior had 11 tackles and a quarterback pressure. Pretty good is right, especially for a fellow, 35, in his 14th NFL season. Wasn't he supposed to have lost a step?

    You could have fooled Turner, Ryan and the rest of the Falcons.

    "I don't feel old," Farrior said. "I feel strong. It's all in your head.

    "It's good to show I've still got a little juice left in the tank."

    Farrior is the first to admit he will need everything he has Sunday in Nashville to keep up with the great Johnson ...

    Hey, I didn't say we weren't going to look ahead at all, did I?

    Farrior was agreeable.

    "I had a chance to work out with him when he came out of college," he said of Johnson. "I timed him in the 40. He was wearing a 20-pound vest and he still ran a 4.34. I couldn't believe it. I asked another guy who was timing him what he had. He said 4.34. I was like, '****, that's fast.' "

    Johnson ran for 2,006 yards last season to lead the NFL. He had 142 yards in the Titans' easy win Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. That was his 12th consecutive 100-yard game, two shy of Hall of Famer Barry Sanders' NFL record.

    "We're going to shut that down," Farrior said. "We're going to make it tough for him."

    It's a nice thought. The Steelers did hold Johnson to 57 yards on 15 carries in their opening-game win against the Titans last season at Heinz Field. But this is 2010. The Steelers' defense is a year older and a ...

    Now, it was Farrior's turn to say wait a minute.

    "A year better," he said, grinning.

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10260...#ixzz0zqWmJnte

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