Share This Page

Steelers' run defense turns corner

| Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton makes a tackle against the Bengals earlier this season. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

The Steelers did some soul searching moments after Oakland's Darren McFadden gutted their defense with a 64-yard scoring run, which the Raiders parlayed into an improbable victory.

Casey Hampton, the venerable nose tackle, dared the Steelers' defensive front to shake itself from its doldrums. Defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel often were tied up in knots as they struggled to find their footing.

“I think guys weren't doing their jobs earlier,” Hampton said pointedly. “They were trying to do too much sometimes. Instead of doing their job, they were trying to do someone else's job, too.”

Finally, the Steelers are getting the job done against the run, vaulting to seventh in rush defense after limiting the Giants to 68 yards in a 24-20 win last weekend.

“The big run by McFadden skews the numbers,” free safety Ryan Clark said. “Denver got a few yards, but it was really early. It can look ugly when you have one bad outing.”

The Steelers are likely to be tested Monday night at Heinz Field when they face the Kansas City Chiefs' third-ranked ground game. The Chiefs' rushing attack is powered by running back Jamaal Charles, the AFC's fourth-leading rusher.

“They have a guy who sticks his foot in the ground and gets vertical,” nose tackle Steve McLendon said. “We faced (Tennessee's) Chris Johnson, but this guy is smaller, and he's very quick and fast and changes directions and reverses field.”

Charles, who missed last year's game against the Steelers because of injuries, isn't as physical as Johnson. Hampton, though, fears Charles' ability to stretch short gains into home runs.

“They do a good job of blocking, and Charles knows when to dip in and out,” Hood said. “He knows how to get to the edge. If not, he'll beat you on the inside.”

The Steelers' defensive front has controlled the line of scrimmage the past five games. As a result, the Steelers' rush defense surrendered 81.2 yards compared to 101 during a 1-2 start.

“The run defense has definitely picked up,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “We try to stay current with our defense. If we're having trouble in an area, we try to do things to maybe help them a little bit. If it's going great, we don't mess with it. We try to reinforce strengths and eliminate our errors.”

The Chiefs, losers of five straight, will try to right themselves against the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL. If nothing else, the AFC West cellar dwellers will be prepared, considering they see a similar defense to the Steelers' 3-4 in practice.

“They see that (3-4 defense) from training camp. They see it every snap. They know the 3-4,” LeBeau said. “They know the pluses and the minuses and the plays to run.

“It certainly won't hurt them that their team plays a 3-4 defense.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.