Steelers' defensive woes persist
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923.
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.
- Panthers free agent safety headed to Steelers
- Steelers bring back long snapper Warren
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley; Taylor restructures contract
- Analysis: Steelers could fill needs with free agents while not spending big bucks
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- 6 players the Steelers will be watching at NFL Combine
- Steelers defense doesn’t make the grade in 2013 review
- Keisel might be at end of Steelers career