TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Steelers' defensive woes persist

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Tennessee receiver Kenny Britt catches a touchdown pass between the Steelers' Ike Taylor and Will Allen during the fourth quarter Thursday of the Titans' 26-23 victory at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Tennessee receiver Kenny Britt catches a touchdown pass between the Steelers' Ike Taylor and Will Allen during the fourth quarter Thursday of the Titans' 26-23 victory at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
ASSOCIATED PRESS - Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison (92) sits on the bench during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>ASSOCIATED PRESS</em></div>Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison (92) sits on the bench during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Steelers/NFL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

By the numbers

The Steelers' defense is among the top 11 in several key categories:

Category Rank

Total defense 5th

Pass defense 4th

Run defense 10th

Scoring 11th

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, 7:32 p.m.
 

James Harrison admits the Steelers' defense has resembled a sprinter in a distance race. Too often they start gasping before the finish line, unable to clear the last hurdle.

They tripped up in Oakland. Then, they staggered and stumbled in Tennessee to surrender a victory to an underdog for the third time this season.

For Harrison, it's an alarming pattern that could transform into a playoff-busting trend if the Steelers (2-3) can't keep pace with AFC North rival Cincinnati (3-3) on Sunday.

“It's like we're finding ways to lose because we're not making plays near the end of games,” said Harrison, who added his surgically repaired knee has been strong since his return two weeks ago.

“Everybody has to take care of their job and take accountability for what they're doing or not doing.”

The defense has been fairly consistent — except in the second half. Unlike past seasons, the Steelers aren't delivering the knockout blow with the opposition's knees buckling against the ropes in the fourth quarter.

They had their chances to put away the Titans. But cornerback Keenan Lewis dropped a potential game-clinching interception, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck twice sidestepped an all-out blitz to complete passes on the game-winning drive.

“The formula for any defense is to stop the run and pressure the quarterback,” Harrison said following Monday's practice. “Any quarterback who gets pressure in his face (every play) isn't going to be as efficient, and that's just the nature of the beast.”

The numbers suggests the Steelers are getting the job done. They are fifth in total defense: fourth passing, 10th rushing and 11th scoring.

However, veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton said it's not about the numbers. Rather, it's about the defense's inability to close with a flurry of impact plays.

“When you look at it, no one is physically dominating us,” Hampton said. “When the opportunity comes, we have to make plays.”

If the Steelers are to avoid falling further behind division leader Baltimore (5-1), they must find a way to shut down Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.

“We've just got to close — point blank, period,” cornerback Ike Taylor said.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Steelers

  1. Steelers notebook: LB Dupree sits out backs-on–backers drill
  2. Inside the Steelers: Williams’ quickness out of backfield evident in drills
  3. Tight ends’ role in Steelers passing game continues to lessen but players remain selfless
  4. Steelers unfazed by Patriots quarterback Brady suspension saga
  5. Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
  6. Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
  7. Steelers LB Timmons has grown into leadership role on defense
  8. Inside the Steelers: Ventrone suffers right ankle injury
  9. Steelers notebook: Backup QB Gradkowski remains out with shoulder issue
  10. Steelers notebook: Rookie CB Golson still dealing with left shoulder pain
  11. Rossi: St. Vincent a football sanctuary during Steelers training camp