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    Default These defenses stand and deliver

    10/1/2010
    Steelers: These defenses stand and deliver
    By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer dlolley@observer-reporter.com

    PITTSBURGH - It will be standing room only along the sideline at Heinz Field Sunday, when the Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens.

    Battling for position won't just be photographers and other assembled game day personnel.

    When the Steelers (3-0) play the Ravens (2-1), the players don't take a seat as they do in most games after coming off the field. Both teams want to see what they're up against, and neither group wants to miss any of the action.

    The defenses of the Steelers and Ravens never take the field against each other, but this is one of those rare games where the players measure their game against the other defense.

    "When we play against the Ravens, we're not playing against their offense," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark. "We're playing against their defense. They're trying to make plays to put their offense in a position to score, so we need to match that. We need to match the intensity of their defense. We need to match their physicality."

    Both teams have their share of offensive stars, but the defenses usually steal the show in this series.

    "We're so similar, definitely defensively as far as the way we play football," said Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis. "(The Steelers) just like to get after people, and we play the same way. They play with a chip on their shoulder; we play with a chip on our shoulder. There are many similarities."

    The numbers back that up.

    Since 2000, the Steelers lead the NFL in total defense, allowing an average of 280.5 yards per game. Baltimore is a close second at 283.6. Over that same span, the Ravens have allowed the fewest points per game, 17.0, while Pittsburgh is second at 17.3.

    In the past eight seasons, neither defense has ranked lower than ninth.

    It's not much different this season.

    The Steelers have given up a league-low 33 points in their first three games. Baltimore, which leads the NFL in total defense, has given up 41.

    "We play just like them," said Clark. "If you've got a bully trying to take your lunch money, you punch him in the mouth and make him fight you for it. That's what we do and the best team will win."

    That brand of physical football both employ on defense is different from that of most NFL teams. With the way the NFL has continued to tweak its rules in recent years to protect offensive players from dangerous hits, that might dramatically change.

    "We're almost illegal now the way we play," said Lewis of the Steelers and Ravens. "That goes to the respect the way both defenses carry their jobs and how important we make it. If you watch the way they play and the way we play, they don't worry about and we don't worry about all the extra stuff. It comes, but the bottom line is we are going to make you play a physical football game, and they'll pretty much do the same thing."

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

    The Steelers are attempting to start 4-0 for the first time since 1979. ... The Ravens are just 2-9 at Heinz Field. ... The Steelers' Daniel Sepulveda ranks second in the AFC in punting average at 47.4 yards.

    http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/...avens-defenses
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    Default Re: These defenses stand and deliver

    Ravens’ line bracing for Steelers’ Harrison, Woodley

    The National Football Post


    OWINGS MILLS – In an instant, a lot of pain can be inflicted on unsuspecting Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

    Traditionally, the vicious hits tend to come from two opposite directions when the Ravens are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Besides star strong safety Troy Polamalu(notes), the Steelers’ defense is headlined by two aggressive, speedy outside linebackers in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

    A former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison is a constant threat to attack a quarterback’s blind side. And Woodley has emerged as a pass rushing force on the right side with a formidable spin move and bull rush in his repertoire.

    “At times we’ve done well against one guy, but then the other guy has hurt us,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s pretty hard to provide help on both sides of your pass protection and get anybody out. That’s the biggest thing.

    “They are very powerful rushers, that’s the No. 1 thing. They really bring it and you’re not sure where they’re coming from, and they bring it with a lot of power.”

    Harrison is an intimidating defender with a low center of gravity.

    Two years ago, he led the NFL with 16 sacks and forced 10 fumbles.

    This year, he leads the Steelers with three sacks to go with 20 fumbles and a forced fumble.

    When Flacco was a rookie, Harrison’s sack and forced fumble was returned for a touchdown by Woodley.

    “It’s tough,” said left tackle Michael Oher(notes), who draws the assignment of blocking Harrison. “You’ve got two guys that have the ability to dominate games. You’ve got to come to play and bring your ‘A’ game every snap They’re pretty good, so you have to be ready to perform.”

    Woodley tormented the Ravens last December during a 23-20 loss at Heinz Field.

    He sacked Flacco twice on consecutive plays, bursting past befuddled offensive tackle Oniel Cousins.

    Over the course of seven offensive plays, Flacco was sacked three times.

    Woodley registered three of the Steelers’ nine sacks against Baltimore last season.

    The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder is big, strong and quick.

    “If you get high, he’s going to get underneath you and jack you into the quarterback,” said right offensive tackle Marshal Yanda, who hasn’t been primarily responsible for blocking Woodley since his rookie season. “You’ve got to identify his rush and play your butt off. He’s one of the best.”

    The Pro Bowl outside linebacker has two sacks, one interception and a forced fumble this year.

    Last season, Woodley posted a career-high 13 ˝ sacks and 84 tackles. He owns an NFL record with two sacks in each of his four playoff games.

    His trademark spin move is especially dangerous.

    “You’ve got to focus on an aiming point,” Yanda said. “You can’t overset on him. If he feels you’re oversetting, he’s going to spin inside or rip inside. He’s a good football player.

    “He doesn’t predetermine moves. He makes his moves off what you do. You’ve got to watch him close.”

    The Steelers rarely flop Harrison and Woodley.

    Virtually every play, the relentless tandem are sent barreling toward the quarterback by crafty defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

    “I think they are two of the best outside linebackers in the league,” Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “Those guys have been extremely productive the last couple of years, and they are both really physical, and I’ve got a lot of respect for them.”

    It helps the Steelers’ cause that they’ve got gritty defensive end Aaron Smith back on the left side this year after he spent last season on injured reserve.

    Smith is extremely difficult to budge.

    “He’s a great inside guy,” Yanda said. “Having him back has definitely helped them out a bunch. They’re playing the way they used to play a couple of years ago.”

    In Flacco’s three trips to Pittsburgh, he has yet to win a game.

    He’s also been sacked a dozen times, uncorked four interceptions and hasn’t completed half of his passes, a 48.8 percentage.

    “We’ve played up there three times, and we’ve played pretty good,” Flacco said. “Besides the playoff game, we’ve played really good up there. We just haven’t come out with wins. We’ve got to finish games, and this is going to be another good game, and we’ll have to finish it in the fourth quarter when it comes down to the time to do that.”

    Woodley and Harrison have thrived in the fourth quarter, though.

    And they combined for 23 ˝ sacks last season, and 51 sacks over the past two seasons.

    Some chip-blocking assistance and maximum protection schemes will probably be in order Sunday.

    “Obviously, two of the best in the league,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “You come up with what you think is going to be a sound plan. Sometimes you double them, sometimes you single them, sometimes you triple them. And then you rely on the trust between the quarterback and the receivers to get the ball out quickly.”

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    Default Re: These defenses stand and deliver

    Harrison is an intimidating defender with a low center of gravity.

    Two years ago, he led the NFL with 16 sacks and forced 10 fumbles.

    This year, he leads the Steelers with three sacks to go with 20 fumbles and a forced fumble.
    I am still one of the minority that thinks Harrison was given too much over too long with his latest contract...

    But...

    Without a doubt, he is earning every ****ed penny...

    He's playing like a beast, and whether it continues beyond this season none of us know... But for NOW, he's worth it.... Question is, will he be worth it in another 2 years when his contract and cap hit are astronomical?... Time will tell, I guess.
    "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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