Steelers need to win battle along D-line
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 11:42 p.m.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley has said “everything has to start up front” for the Steelers' defense to be successful.
The defensive line and linebackers will be challenged when the Steelers host the Buffalo Bills at 1 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field.
The Bills will have rookie quarterback EJ Manuel back in the starting lineup, but one of the league's best ground games will get the Steelers' attention.
The Bills haven't disguised what they intend to do.
They intend to feed the Steelers a steady diet of running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, mostly because the Steelers are next to last in defending the run.
It's a stark contrast to where the Steelers have been. New England quarterback Tom Brady last week enjoyed success, in part, because running back Stevan Ridley hammered the Steelers for 115 yards on 26 carries.
In their past two games, the Steelers have allowed the opposition to rush for 197 yards. What the Bills have seen on Steelers game film against Oakland and New England is a defense that has been manhandled up front and not fast enough to seal the seams.
“If we aren't playing good up front, then we count on our secondary to make tackles and make plays, and we shouldn't put them in that position,” said Woodley, who followed a zero-tackle performance against Oakland with two solos and six assists in a 55-31 loss to the Patriots.
“We have to do a better job stopping the run. We haven't done that all year. It's about everybody doing their job.”
The job has been difficult, mostly because the defense has lost a step or two.
It isn't simply a matter of speed but rather an inability to swarm the ball.
That was evident when Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor encountered no resistance in finding daylight through the middle of the defense.
“It doesn't matter if they are fast or strong,” defensive end Ziggy Hood said. “It comes down to playing together. We hurt ourselves when we're not on the same page. Some teams scheme against us because of it.
“Everyone is moving fast but not fast enough as a unit.”
“The game as a whole is getting faster, so the defense has to adjust,” linebacker Jason Worilds said.
“We are pretty fast, athletic group. So that's why it's frustrating when we don't play to our abilities.”
The Bills are averaging 145.8 rushing yards per game, second in the AFC.
The Steelers would rather the Bills lean on an erratic passing game that's ranked 14th in the conference.
But Manuel will present a similar challenge to the one they faced against Pryor.
Manuel lacks Pryor's speed, but elusiveness is a concern for a defense that has only 13 sacks.
While defensive ends Cam Heyward and Brett Keisel have a team-high 21 quarterback pressures, they have combined for only three sacks.
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaullk_Trib.
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.
- Rice cornerback among 3 draft prospects to visit Steelers
- Despite many moves, Steelers’ depth still a work in progress