As much flux as the Pittsburgh Steelers have been in this NFL season on both sides of the football, the Steelers defense has been the anchor of this team. They are the top statistical defense in the league yet again, and even with all the injuries they simply find a way to get the job done. This weekend they face a Baltimore Ravens offense that has really started to come into it’s own and become the focus of the Ravens team. What should fans expect from the Steelers defense?
The defensive line has been a disappointment to me this year. There are a lot of resources and draft picks poured into this group and to be honest it doesn’t look as if those were smart moves. For this week’s game they need to stick to the script, stick to the game plan and do their jobs. One of the keys to this season’s success has been playing smart, assignment and fundamental sound football. There’s no doubt the Ravens are going to come out and try and run the football and this is the first line against it. They must command double teams, beat one on ones, and when the play is there, make the tackle.
The key to any great 3-4 defense is the linebackers and this season the Steelers have a good group. In this game they will be minus one starter as outside backer LaMarr Woodley will be out. This seriously impacts the pass rush on the outside. Now I understand that the pass rush hasn’t been tremendous, and reserve linebacker Jason Worilds has had a nice year, but it will fall hard on the remaining backers to stuff the run and pressure quarterback Joe Flacco.
The real key unit this weekend may be the secondary. Starting cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis have played much better than I thought they would. And the safetys have really stepped up with starters Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark both missing time with injuries. This weekend Polamalu returns which could free up the defense some, but for the most part I think they will stick to the plan, keep the Ravens receivers in front of them, and deliver the hits. The Steelers secondary has really been laying the wood to opposing players and you cannot understate how important it is to get in the heads of offensive players and when they are making a catch to wonder if they are going to get ear-holed after the catch.
Overall, I fully expect another great defensive effort on Sunday. Stuff the run and pressure the quarterback in creative ways. Use coverage to allow the defensive line to get after the quarterback and tackle. This team hasn’t done well with turnovers, but I have a feeling that this week with the addition of Polamalu there could be some turnovers to be had for the Steelers. If the Steelers want to stop this losing streak it will fall firmly on the defense to make it happen.
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