Steelers trying to keep defense disguised
Chaos theory is a complex form of mathematics in which seemingly random events become predictable when precise equations are applied, but even the slightest variation can cause unreliable results.
The Steelers' defense is much the same way.
With its zone blitzes, multiple disguises and numerous schematic variations, the defense is designed to be as confusing to a quarterback as algorithms are to a college freshman. Remove the chaos and the mystery, and it becomes much more unreliable and unpredictable. And beatable.
According to several defensive starters, the Steelers repeatedly tipped their defense during losses in Denver and Oakland, thereby allowing Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer to decipher what was coming and to adjust to it.
The acquired knowledge helped Manning and Palmer lead a combined eight scoring drives in the second half against a Steelers defense that was much more effective against them in the first half. Denver scored 24 points past halftime in its 31-19 win on Sept. 19, and Oakland put up 20 points in the second half in upsetting the Steelers, 34-31, on Sept. 23.
Manning, operating a hurry-up offense, took advantage of the defense's tendency to line up too quickly and adjusted his play call to what he was reading.
Palmer was more deliberate, waiting out the Steelers at the line of scrimmage and looking for any hints about their blitzing or coverages before running one of several predetermined plays.
“Carson held it, we tipped our hand a little bit, and he got us,” linebacker Larry Foote said Tuesday.
On Darren McFadden's 64-yard touchdown run in Oakland, Palmer went to a hard count at the line of scrimmage and Brett Keisel, Chris Carter, Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Clark all moved, signaling what the defense was doing. Palmer reset, then checked off to the run.
During the short week of preparation for the Thursday night game at Tennessee, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau emphasized the importance of keeping the defense disguised until the quarterback has no option but to call the play.
“We've got to be veteran enough to look at that (play) clock and say, ‘Hey, he's not going to go right now, he's going to gather as much information as he can (first),' ” LeBeau said. “The bottom line is we have to be smart enough to know how much time that guy's got, and when he's going to go.”
A quarterback can benefit most from knowing what coverage a defense will employ.
“You've got to disguise,” Foote said. “The DBs (defensive backs), that's their job to disguise and not show our hand.”
Nose tackle Casey Hampton said, “Guys just got to hold their coverages. You've kind of got to get a feel from watching film and knowing when they're going to snap the ball.”
On at least five occasions Sunday against the Eagles, Steelers linebackers prematurely showed blitzes; Foote did it four times and Timmons once. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was sacked three times and fumbled three times, but he was 12 of 18 for 134 yards and two touchdowns when the Steelers blitzed. He was 6 of 12 for 41 yards when they didn't.
Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, filling in for the injured Jake Locker, has faced the Steelers four times previously, including the 2005 season Super Bowl.
“He's a quick rhythm passer,” Foote said. “A veteran guy like that, you can't leave anybody open, he's going to find them.”
What the Steelers intend to do is make sure he doesn't find out a whole lot more.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Steelers’ Adams delivers in pinch against Texans
- Rossi: Middling Steelers must make a statement
- Steelers free safety Mitchell is still settling into role on defense
- Steelers notebook: Young players provide big challenge for special teams coach
- Steelers’ defense on pace for fewest sacks in 16-game season
- Starkey: Century mark beckons for Ben
- Nearing season’s midpoint, Steelers still have issues to sort out
- Steelers notebook: No-huddle gets limited use vs. Texans
- Snapshot in time: Comparing Cowher, Tomlin drafts
- Steelers film session: Watt kept under control
- Rossi: Steelers’ season all about going big