Steelers start Defensive End, Pro Bowler, and unsung hero of the defense for years, Aaron Smith has been out with a triceps tear injury for most of the season as we all know. Now, we also know that our defense is a better group with Smith in the lineup. Let’s face it, he is one of the best lineman in the NFL year in and year out. There isn’t an offensive lineman that can handle Smith all game long. He knows his job as a Defensive Lineman for the Steelers in a 34 defense is to stop the run at all costs. That’s what lineman on in a Dick Lebeau defense do, and they do it better than anyone. Guys like Smith, Keisel, Hampton, Hood, Eason, and Hoke know they aren’t going to light up the stat sheet or get the accolades that other players do, it’s the nature of the position. For the true NFL fan, ones that understands defenses, it will well known that Smith is one of the best in the business and has been his whole career.
In 2009, the defense was missing Troy Polamalu & Aaron Smith, not coincidentally they struggled at times. They finished number number 3 against the rush, allowing 89.9 yds per game. Certainly nothing to sneeze out but as we remember from the games last year there were many times when teams would easily convert normal passing downs by running. The short yardage defense could not stop anyone and consequently the defense was on the field far too long. Overall the Steeler defense was #5 in the league, again still solid but players and coaches themselves realized there was a lot of room for improvement.
In 2010 the rush defense finished #1 allowing on 62.8 yards per game, and Number 2 in overall defense. Credit goes to Lebeau and the entire defense for that type of performance in the regular season. With Polamalu back and healthy for most of the year and the emergence of 2nd year lineman Ziggy Hood the defense is back to it’s dominating ways. Even with Bret Keisel missing a few games with a hamstring, Nick Eason played solid and provided good run support. It’s been a total team effort to overcome the loss of Smith to this group but I think it speaks volumes to the resiliency of the defense to step up and improve on last years performance. To step up realizing their comrade is down and there’s no excuses to be made. Backups are on the the team for a reason and when it’s their turn to play the expectations don’t lower as far as Tomlin and Lebeau are concerned. This year, the performance did not either.
Now, getting Smith back for the post season would be a boost to the team and help with the rotation of keeping players fresh especially in the 4th quarter. With so much on the line there’s nothing more than Aaron Smith wants more than to come back and help his team. The defense though has shown that they can bounce back and be the unit that is needed to help this team in the post season.
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