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Tomlin spreads blame for letdown in pass defense

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Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010

The words should be chilling to Steelers fans.

Asked about the play of his secondary after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns in a 13-point Steelers loss, coach Mike Tomlin passed the buck to his front seven.

"Our pass defense is a combination of a lot of people. Not only corners but safties and linebackers and (pass) rush,'' Tomlin said. "A lot of the things that went on in that game, many of them were underneath throws that aren't directly involving cornerback play.''

Brady wasn't sacked in 43 attempts. With no consistent pass rush to force him to hurry his throws, Brady had plenty of time to target nine different receivers. Brady averaged 8.1 yards per completion, the highest average permitted by the Steelers this season.

"We weren't able to get consistent pressure,'' said Tomlin after the game.

Two days later, when he had a chance to view game tape, Tomlin added, "We all accept responsibility for our inability to consistently stop the New England Patriots. Coaches, players — everyone. Not only the cornerback position.''

Added inside linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior: "We can't put those guys (cornerbacks) on an island and expect them to cover for a long time. We have to get a better pass rush. We definitely have to take it upon the front seven and the guys that are rushing the quarterback to have those guys' backs. They've got the hardest job on the field.''

Steelers cornerbacks have been a lightning rod for criticism following losses to Baltimore, New Orleans and New England. However, Tomlin's comments offered a different perspective about what went wrong defensively in those games.

The lack of a pass rush, for one.

In their three losses, the Steelers allowed six touchdown passes against only three sacks in 124 pass attempts.

"There were times when we could have done things better. And there were times there was nothing you could do about it,'' said outside linebacker James Harrison, who leads the Steelers with seven sacks this season. "We could have had more pressure when Brady held the ball long enough to where we could have got there.''

Former New England safety Rodney Harrison offered another perspective that could help explain Brady's success against the Steelers.

Appearing on NBC, Harrison predicted before last week's game that Steelers cornerbacks would play man-to-man against New England's receivers because "the teams that have beaten the Patriots (Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets) played tight man-to-man coverage. The Patriots love those short, intermediate routes. If you're playing zone coverage like the Pittsburgh Steelers do all the time, there's some openings. But I think they're going to play man coverage.''

The Steelers played mostly zone against New England as Brady had a field day.

"In pass coverage, it's all on us because we're the guys covering the people who catch the ball,'' free safety Ryan Clark said. "We know it all works together. We know that when James (Harrison) and LaMarr (Woodley) are getting to the quarterback, we're a better team. But we also need to give them time to get back there. You can't let Tom Brady throw on his third step or his fifth step, or have a guy wide open if you expect the rush to get there.''

Additional Information:

Getting to the QB

Steelers sack leaders this season:

James Harrison: 7.0

LeMarr Woodley: 5.5

Lawrence Timmons: 2.0

Nick Eason: 1.5

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