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Thread: Steelers Team Report

      
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    Default Steelers Team Report

    Steelers Team Report
    Yahoo! Sports

    INSIDE SLANT

    Pittsburgh’s once rock-solid defensive line will be missing another piece Monday night when it plays in Denver.

    The Steelers lost end Aaron Smith for the season with a rotator cuff injury Oct. 11. Now comes news that his replacement, Travis Kirschke, likely will miss at least their next game with a torn left calf muscle.

    Nick Eason will start at left end for Kirschke, but that leaves two rookies as their top two backups as they enter the high altitude of Denver. The Steelers like to spell their starters as it is, and have done so even more often when they play in Denver.

    “We’ve played there a few times and we know what it’s like,” said veteran backup nose tackle Chris Hoke, who also could be called to play a few snaps at end in Denver. “I played in high altitude in college so you need to make sure have a good rotation going.”

    But behind the starting ends are Ziggy Hood and Sunny Harris, both rookies. Hood, their first-round pick, has played a few snaps in each game but not many. Harris has not played yet, and he was cut by the Steelers after training camp, only to get him back from Carolina’s practice squad after Smith’s injury.

    “We’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done around here, which is come at all angles,” said Brett Keisel, their starting end on the right side. “If guys got to come in to play, they have to come in to play. We feel Ziggy’s come a long way since training camp.”

    As it is, the Steelers’ defense could be down three starters Monday night. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons has missed both practices this week with a sprained right ankle that coach Mike Tomlin listed as questionable. Free safety Ryan Clark likely will not play because he nearly lost his life the last time he played in Denver in 2007 - he has sickle cell trait and his blood reacted in the exertion of the high altitude and he lost his spleen, gall bladder, 30 pounds and the rest of the season.

    Timmons could be limited to playing in the nickel defense with Keyaron Fox starting at inside linebacker on the run downs. Tyrone Carter would replace Clark at free safety but young Ryan Mundy will be ready to go there as well.

    The more important aspect, though, is what’s happening in the defensive line. The Steelers have prided themselves on having one of the best 3-4 lines in the NFL this decade, and they have the top-rated run defense this season.

    But without Smith and Kirschke, that line is showing some cracks. [HIGH-LIGHT]Coincidentally, one of the players the Steelers cut in 2008, Ryan McBean, starts at defensive end for Denver.[/HIGH-LIGHT] He was a fourth-round draft pick who spent only his rookie season with the Steelers.

    “They’re ready to play,” former backup Eason said of the two rookie backups. “Ziggy, Sunny as well. He’s been here, he knows the defense.”

    Series History: 21st regular-season meeting. Denver leads series 13-6-1. The Broncos are 7-2-1 at home vs. Pittsburgh. The teams are 3-3 in the playoffs. The Steelers have not won in Denver in the regular season since 1990, including a 31-28 loss in 2007. However, Pittsburgh did win the AFC Championship Game in Denver after the 2005 season.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    Pittsburgh has to figure a way to get to Kyle Orton on Monday night. One player who might be able to help the Steelers’ cause is LaMarr Woodley.

    Woodley has been quiet in his second season as the Steelers’ starting left outside linebacker with just two sacks in seven games. He had 11.5 in 15 regular-season games in 2008 and has two in each of his four postseason games, becoming the only player in NFL history to accomplish that feat.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]Woodley will square off against Chicago’s Tyler Polumbus, who will be making his first NFL start at right tackle for injured Ryan Harris[/HIGH-LIGHT]. Woodley said he hopes to do what he has not done often this season—take advantage of his opportunities. He missed Brett Favre once in his past game and got him another time, only to have it canceled by a false start. Offensive tackles, he said, are “kicking back” to try to deny his rush.

    “I have to find a way to get past that,” Woodley said. “When I find a way to get past that—it’s still a long season—it’s really going to get dangerous.”

    • Punter Mitch Berger, who earned a Super Bowl XLIII ring with the Steelers, signed with Denver last week and will punt against his former teammates Monday night.

    • WR Hines Ward was selected as the dirtiest player in the league by nearly a 2-1 margin over his closest competitor in one of those flawed but interesting Sports Illustrated player polls. Only 296 players took part and since the poll was conducted during training camps, some may not still be in the league. Ward polled 11.6 percent of the votes. OK let's do the math....11.6% of the votes out of 296= 34.336 votes. 296 votes out of all the players in training camp....32 teams x 80= 2560 players...8.65% of the players voted.

    • WR Santonio Holmes is only third among Steelers pass-catchers with 30 but he’s third in the NFL with 208 third-down receiving yards. His 497 yards are still on pace to produce his first 1,000-yard season.

    By The Numbers: 11-1/4-0 - Coach Mike Tomlin’s record in all prime time regular-season games and on Monday nights.

    Quote To Note: “We’re going to try to do some of the same things Baltimore did to them.”—LB James Farrior on Denver’s 30-7 loss to the Ravens Sunday.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    Player Notes

    • FS Ryan Clark will not play at Denver because of the reaction his system had when he played there two years ago. Clark has a sickle-cell trait acerbated by high altitude. After the game in 2007, he had to have his spleen and gall bladder removed and became so ill he lost 30 pounds while missing the rest of the season.

    • RB Willie Parker said he might abandon the special Nike shoes made for him after he suffered turf toe. He believes the toe has healed enough to do that.

    • QB Ben Roethlisberger needs one more passer rating of 100 to give him more than Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Each recorded 31 games of at least 100.

    • RB Rashard Mendenhall has shown a good ability to catch passes, something Willie Parker never did. He’s caught eight and could take some catches from third-down back Mewelde Moore.

    • WR Hines Ward has never had a 100-yard receiving game in Denver. His best came in 2003 when he caught eight passes for 81 yards.

    • LB Keyaron Fox, a special-teams co-captain, remains their leader on the field with 12 tackles. He will make his third start at inside linebacker if Lawrence Timmons does not go.

    Game Plan: The Steelers would like to run the ball in Denver and keep the Broncos’ pass rush at bay and Rashard Mendenhall has done well in his four starts and averages 5.4 yards per carry. On defense, they always try to stop the run first and will do that, and try to tighten up the middle of their defense against the Broncos patient dink-and-dunk passing attack; that will be more difficult for them if either or both LB Lawrence Timmons and FS Ryan Clark do not play.

    Matchups To Watch: Steelers LOLB LaMarr Woodley vs. Broncos RT Tyler Polumbus. Woodley has only two sacks this season but goes against backup making his first start.

    • [HIGH-LIGHT]Steelers LT Max Starks vs. Broncos ROLB Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil, who has 10 sacks, is only 5-foot-11; Starks is 6-8.[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    Injury Impact:

    • LB Lawrence Timmons has not practiced this week because of a sprained right ankle. He said his chances of playing in Denver are “day to day.”

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    Default Re: Steelers Team Report

    Nick Eason will start at left end for Kirschke, but that leaves two rookies as their top two backups as they enter the high altitude of Denver.
    Steelers LT Max Starks vs. Broncos ROLB Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil, who has 10 sacks, is only 5-foot-11; Starks is 6-8.
    These two points will be key IMO... If we can keep solid pressure on Orten all night and Starks can control Dumervil on the other side of the ball, the game should go alot smoother for us.
    "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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