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Steeler playbook BIGGER and will PACK more PUNCH!!!!!

Postby Hi5Steeler » Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:37 pm

Main objective: Defense needs to pressure the QB
Monday, June 02, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It's bigger and, according to the plan, will pack more punch. The Steelers' defensive playbook always has been one of the more intricate and confusing in the NFL under coordinator Dick LeBeau, and it might be more so in 2008.

Some of the newer designs are meant for one reason: Get to the quarterback. The Steelers have been among the best at that, traditionally. But the past two seasons, it's not the quarterback who has dropped but Steelers' sack totals. They dipped from 47 during their run to the Super Bowl in 2005, to 39 in 2006 and to 36 last season.

They've gone from Blitzburgh to Zipsburgh when it comes to sacking the quarterback, especially in the second half of last season. Halfway through, the Steelers had 25 sacks and a 6-2 record. In the second half, they managed only 11 sacks and a 4-4 record.

"I do feel like maybe toward the end of the year we weren't getting to the quarterback as much as we should have," said defensive end Brett Keisel.

Little surprise then that LeBeau and head coach Mike Tomlin are trying to devise ways to put more pressure on the quarterback in 2008.

"We have to put guys in position to highlight their skills and let them go," Tomlin said.

Toward that end, there will be lineup changes and schematic ones, too.

LaMarr Woodley replaces Clark Haggans at left outside linebacker, and he has shown he knows his way to the quarterback. He had four sacks while playing in just 80 of the team's 933 defensive snaps as a rookie last regular season, then added two more in the playoff loss to Jacksonville. Haggans had four sacks as a starter. Those six sacks ranked third on the team behind James Harrison's 10 and James Farrior's 6.5.

His teammates predict big things for Woodley as a regular in 2008.

"He's very strong," Keisel said. "I think once he gets more comfortable in our scheme and what he's doing, he's just going to be that much better. I definitely expect double digits from him."

More pressure from Woodley on the left side should provide more opportunities for team MVP Harrison on the right.

"Hopefully, he'll take some of the pressure I had toward the later part of the year, where they started keeping running backs in to block me on the edge, give me a bump," Harrison said. "They're going to have to give him the same respect that they give me.

"I figure through the first half of the year, he'll come out and surprise a few people on opposing teams, and, after they realize it, they'll have to deal with both of us."

Harrison's role will increase, too. The plan is to move him around more in the defense, along with Keisel, to try to further confuse offenses. He'll do more of what Joey Porter did before him.

"It should be confusing," Harrison said. "You're going to get looks where we're inverted or we're both inside. We're both going to rush, both going to drop. One might rush and one might drop, depending on what the call is."

The drop they hope to avoid is another one in their sack total.

"I think our defense is definitely capable of a large playbook where we have all kinds of things that we can throw at an offense," Keisel said. "We don't have to come at one team with one game plan. We can say, well, this team, you can get after them on the right side and then have a whole thing of crazy blitzes, you know. We have a veteran defense and, hopefully, we will do that."

It might get a boost from a rookie, though.

One reason cited for the dropoff in sacks the second half of the season was weariness. Other than Woodley's few plays, Haggans and Harrison played every down. The coaches said they would like to use third-round pick Bruce Davis as a situational pass-rusher to spell Woodley and Harrison. Davis had 24 1/2 sacks the past two seasons at UCLA.

"It has to be a collective thing," Tomlin said, explaining the workings of a good pass rush. "If you have one guy who has standout skills, offenses can make adjustments and do what they need to do in terms of getting it blocked. If you have a collective group that's capable of getting after the quarterback, making the ball come out on time and eliminating escape lanes, then you have a good rush and you can apply consistent pressure."

Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on June 2, 2008 at 12:00 am

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Re: Steeler playbook BIGGER and will PACK more PUNCH!!!!!

Postby lynchcowher » Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:52 pm

Woodley replacing has been Haggans will help a lot. Now, if only the 15th overall pick of last years draft, Alonzo Timmons, could replace the sub par, career back up, Larry Foote, we'd be in pretty good shape.

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