View Full Version : Could be the same Steelers secondary as 2010

08-08-2011, 11:43 PM
No matter how it is dissected, the Steelers defense does just about everything but stop traffic on the Parkway. They stop the run, sack the quarterback and disrupt the pass better than any team in the National Football League, though the latter might come as a surprise to people who want to deride their secondary.

In a season in which their defensive performance was as complete as any in team history, the Steelers led the league in scoring (232), rushing (62.8 yards per game) and sacks (48); were second in opposing passer rating (73.1); and were second in the AFC with 21 interceptions.

Nonetheless, after the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers zipped through their defense in Super Bowl XLV, the secondary has absorbed nearly as much criticism as gas prices. And it's the cornerbacks who receive the brunt of the blame, especially Bryant McFadden and nickel back William Gay, each of whom were targeted by Rodgers and repeatedly picked on in a 31-25 loss to the Packers.

"A lot of people pinpoint that game, but we played against an outstanding offense," McFadden said. "When you look at what they did, they executed on all cylinders throughout the playoffs and we didn't play as well as we did. But we had plays and we were still in position to win the game."

Then McFadden added, "We take a lot of blows. It's the nature of the business."
Six months later, it appears the Steelers are prepared to head into the season with the same trio of cornerbacks who lined up in the Super Bowl. They re-signed Ike Taylor, their best corner, to a new contract -- a move considered a top priority after the conclusion of the lockout. And they decided to bring back Gay, who was an unrestricted free agent, for one more season as their nickel back.

Sure, the Steelers drafted two cornerbacks with back-to-back picks in April -- Curtis Brown of Texas in the third round and Cortez Allen of The Citadel in the fourth -- but neither is even close to being ready to move out McFadden as the starting left cornerback. Brown and Allen have missed the past couple days of training camp with injuries, further delaying any chance they might have of supplanting Gay as the nickel back.

Safety Ryan Clark said the cornerbacks get a bad rap and are overshadowed in the Steelers defense because it's the only position that hasn't had a player in the Pro Bowl.

"I think our corners do a good job," Clark said. "I think we need to make more plays out there for people to see. I think it's hard when you have a Troy Polamalu who plays safety and makes all those plays. They look at corners in a different way.
"It's a weird deal, but the blame has to go somewhere when something goes wrong I guess."

Indeed, the Steelers trailed only the New England Patriots (25) in the AFC in interceptions, but cornerbacks accounted for just five of their 21 interceptions. And while their opposing passer rating was bested only by the Packers (67.2) in the regular season, the secondary became downright accommodating when they faced an elite quarterback.

Drew Brees (305 yards), Tom Brady (350) and Rodgers (304) combined to complete nearly 70 percent of their passes (88 of 126) for 959 yards and eight touchdowns in three games against them. The opposing passer rating in those games was 137.6 -- 64 points above their season average of 73.1.

"That's football," Gay said. "You're the only one out of the front seven, the only one that the fans can really see. They know if you get beat here or beat there, you must not be doing something right. But they don't understand what goes on, as far as seven on seven, so they look at the cornerbacks in the secondary and say it's their fault."
It's probably not going to stop, either, not until the fans see plays of a more positive nature. Taylor makes them all the time, but he doesn't intercept passes. In fact, cornerbacks have accounted for only 13 interceptions in the past three seasons.
"I guess sometimes we feel as though we're probably the ones getting picked on by the media or whatever, but it comes with the territory," McFadden said. "We got some incredible beasts in front of us so they should get all the praise. We got to be the guys on the back end who get all the lashes all the time

From the PG (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11220/1165950-66-0.stm#ixzz1UV2Kpelm)

08-08-2011, 11:51 PM
I get the whole, the corners have a tough job thing. They are on an island, they only get help from their own group a lot of the time. They are expected to take care of their man one on one in key situations.

My issue is here that all too often McFadden and Gay were getting burnt like a chicken left on the grill. They were out of position, couldn't recover before it was too late, you name it. The fact is, there is no excuse. You take care of business or you don't last in this league. Unless you play for the Steelers of course, then you suffer through poor cornerback play on one side of the field for years because you don't draft a top flight corner. You try and get back with lower tier picks or guys that once had it.

I was as excited as anyone when McFadden came back, but so far injury or not, he hasn't gotten it done. Maybe he gets back to his old self this year? Unless Gay is coming off the corner on a blitz, I have zero confidence in him to make the play. Maybe he improves again and is now a force in the secondary? Again, hoping beyond all hope?

I know, I'm just venting but hoping the secondary steps up is getting old. It's not like the Safeties are without fault, we know that too. The whole group, for all the talent, just seems to make 1 big play and then 2 or 3 epic blunders at the worst times. They win inspite of the secondary play instead of because of it. It's one thing to win in the regular season against offenses that don't pass that often. Offenses that don't have the talent at WR that top flight offenses do. If you can't hang with the Patriots or Packers, in the passing game on defense, then something is wrong and it's time to fix it!!

If the young guys aren't ready, perhaps by mid season we start to see one or both them beginning to step up and get more reps.

08-08-2011, 11:52 PM
Soooooo if these guys would make plays instead of getting burnt and outplayed then it would be a different secondary? Ok I'll bite.....then make the ****ing plays!! Hold onto the INT's!! Make the tackles!! Don't bite on pump fakes!! Play your position!! That's not asking for much, be better then the guy your lined up against. Have the desire and the will to be the best CB in the NFL. Heart, desire and the right attitude goes a long ways.

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08-09-2011, 12:28 AM
It is what it is...

08-09-2011, 12:38 AM
I don't think Brees had a very good game against us. It kind of irks me how he gets lumped in there with the myth of Peyton Manning. They scored 20 points, and one TD came on a short field after a uncharacteristic Heath Miller fumble. The game was very low scoring and close up until the final 10 minutes of the 4th qurter.

08-09-2011, 12:40 AM
Can they out think the opponent? Even a little bit better than last year. It always takes that little bit extra.

08-09-2011, 08:12 AM
Yeah that Saints game irks me too. The Steelers had that one won and then some mental errors in the secondary and a late touchdown and it sealed our fate. That game was close till the end.

In the super bowl our secondary was shredded. You can say what you want about them being on their game or whatever, but the Steelers personnel doesn't match up well against an elite passing team, it never has.

Now teams like the Patriots and Packers, who can throw the ball against us at will, it seems like they are just content to let be what it is. I know that's not their mindset but in the end the defense just can't hang with those teams with multiple weapons and a top rated QB. They haven't been able to it since Cowher was there and they can't do it now.

08-09-2011, 08:40 AM
I don't think it will be the same i think lewis and butler will get some reps . how else can they be evaluated not at practice only so i'm not concerned especially because troy will be better this year

08-09-2011, 08:53 AM
Yeah I kinda figured we'd have the "same" secondary as last year when we didnt bring in any vets. Not to mention I didnt reall expect the rooks to contribute that much in the first half of the season, now they have been battling tweaks and pulls, putting them farther behind. I just hope we can strike gold with one of the 4 CBs weve drafted over the last 3 years...

K Train
08-09-2011, 09:33 AM
i dont think so, i think we'll see some new faces even if the starters are the same. Butler, Brown, Lewis? maybe?

no way they roll with clark and bmac full time an no way troy finishes a season

08-09-2011, 09:52 AM
I don't think they'll have a choice but to roll with BMac opposite Ike, atleast to start the season. Curtis Brown or Cortez Allen would have to have exceptional camps to even be considered for the starting job. Even then best case scenario I couldn't see them breaking into the starting lineup with significant playing time until the midway point of the season.

08-09-2011, 10:34 AM
Did they not learn a thing watching SB?? Did they see the same SB as I did?? There is no way in hell we can have the same secondary....:nono:

K Train
08-09-2011, 10:37 AM
Did they not learn a thing watching SB?? Did they see the same SB as I did?? There is no way in hell we can have the same secondary....:nono:

they have been an effective group before...cant really put it all on the superbowl.

hopefully we see less and less of ryan clark and williams gay at FS and NB and more and more of butler/lewis/brown

08-09-2011, 10:40 AM
AR carved up a lot better DB's all last season, sucks for us we only have one game to remember..

I think we'll be better this season..

08-09-2011, 12:06 PM
So they're going to roll with the Tampa Toast defense again? Cool.

08-10-2011, 09:58 AM
Seems to be that way, at this point I don't think they have any choice. Dick Lebeau and his staff don't like working with rookies because of the steep learning curve needed to run in the 34 defense that is in place. They'd rather have a veteran in there whenever possible. Brown or Allen would have to have an amazing camp to even sniff the field when the season starts, unless injuries force their hand.

08-10-2011, 10:34 AM
I thought Chuck Finder made a solid point during the podacst last night. He said that guys like Woodley were commenting that they can help the secondary be more effective by getting a more consistent rush. If the D-line is rotating 6 as it appears it could, perhaps Wood is on to something. It's nothing we didn't know, but throw in Sylvester and possibly Worlids for some speed and the rush could be improved from last year.

K Train
08-10-2011, 10:43 AM
improving a pass rush that was #1 in sacks and mad ethe secondary #5 in picks...scary

08-10-2011, 10:44 AM
Latest story line through out the sports etherworld (I believe the Steelers are close to the oldest, in player's actual ages, D line in the NFL) is gonna be "the steelers defense is to old". IMHO. So, will be lookin for all blather on this. Developing... What else are the sports wizards going to say about us. You all know how well we are loved by those creeps. And, imagine there suprise when the Steelers go all the way with this. lol

K Train
08-10-2011, 10:45 AM
being old on the dline isnt a big deal when you have keisel with alot left in the tank and 2 first round picks waiting their turn

K Train
08-10-2011, 10:58 AM
4 Reasons Why - Exaggerated Cornerback Criticism
Posted Tue, 08/09/2011 - 23:54 by Hardnosed
The Patriots and Packers developed the blueprint to beat the Steelers last season, and now every team in the league knows exactly what has to be done.

All you have to do is find yourself an ultra-accurate, Hall of Fame caliber quarterback who is adept at the short passing game and who has a deep, smart receiving corps, all of whom run great routes. Then you just have him march methodically down the field, throwing two-thirds of the time while demanding that he makes no mistakes. Easy, right?

Of course it isn't. And that's why the current canard that the Steelers' pass defense is a liability is at best hyperbole and at worst wholly inaccurate.

Here's 4 reasons why.

1. Jordan/Pistons Syndrome

The Detroit Pistons of the late 1980's were one of the best defensive basketball teams ever assembled. But even they couldn't stop Michael Jordan, and that certainly didn't make them a bad defense. Through some adjustments, they managed to contain Jordan during the first of their two titles, after giving up 59 and 61 points to him in previous meetings.

There's no shame in getting beat by an Aaron Rodgers or a Tom Brady or a Drew Brees or a Kurt Warner, that's what they do. The Steelers were simply Aaron Rodgers' dessert after a three course meal. I don't see any talk of Rodgers exposing the Eagles' or Falcons' cornerbacks. Tom Brady posted 6 higher QB ratings than the 117.4 he put up against the Steelers last year. One was against the vaunted Jets' pass defense, a 148.9. Aaron Rodgers put up 7 passer ratings higher than the 111.5 he posted in the Super Bowl. The Steelers are not alone in getting shredded by these guys.

It's real simple - the defense has to come up with turnovers to fight back against top QB's, who now operate under rules that heavily favor the passing game. The Steelers haven't done that against Brady (except in the 2004 regular season, when they beat him), and they didn't do that against Rodgers. On the flip side, the Steelers' offense has turned the ball over in those matchups, which only serves to feed the beast.

Getting beat by Tom Brady doesn't mean a team has been exposed. Getting beat by lesser quarterbacks means that the team has been exposed, and that did occur during an injury-plagued 2009 season at times. But it didn't occur last year.

Beating the Steelers' defense is like trying to avoid hostile Imperial fighters in a narrow trench while trying to hit a two-meter thermal exhaust port with a proton torpedo. It takes the Force to be able to do it, and there are only a few Jedi left in the galaxy.

2. The Numbers

I hate stats. But they're eye popping in this case. In 2010, the Steelers were 12th in the league in passing yards against. Middle of the pack, though slightly skewed by the incredible run defense. But they were 1st in sacks, 1st in average yards per completion against, 1st in fewest 20+ yard pass plays, 2nd in opposing QB rating and 5th in interceptions.

In 2008 they of course had one of the best regular-season pass defenses in team history, giving up only two plays over 40 yards on the year and finishing first in passing yards allowed. And that was with Bryant McFadden and William Gay playing huge roles.

Even in 2009, the worst pass defense the team has fielded since the Scott/Washington/Alexander/Flowers days, the Steelers were in the top half of the league in almost every category, with the glaring exception being interceptions.

The numbers don't indicate that this team features poor pass defense as currently configured, it's just that on an airtight defense, any leak is going to be big news.

3. It's the Only Way

And that's where the disjointed amount of criticism comes from, I think. Going with the spread short passing game with 4 wide receivers is literally the only way to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense.

Teams have tried to stick with the run. And all they end up doing is wasting downs.

They've tried to test the team deep with play action and longer-developing pass plays. And they end up taking sacks or committing turnovers against the "don't let them get behind you" philosophy that Dick Lebeau employs.

Teams have tried to use the Wildcat to generate confusion and pick up easy yards. But the Steelers have figured it out through a combination of adjusting their scheme and inflicting punishment. As James Harrison said after knocking out Josh Cribbs, "that ended the wildcat."

The media, announcers and fans of other teams will be out in force this year trumpeting the idea that they know how to beat the Steelers, like Jim Johnson's ghost has taken over their body. As explained above, it's easier said than done.

Some might suggest that the Steelers divest in their front seven in order to shore up their only weakness in the secondary. This idea ignores the fact that the Steelers' run defense is what it is because the team has invested heavily in making it so, because stopping the run remains the foundation of great defense. Even in today's pass-happy game, most teams need some semblance of balance to be successful.

To take any chances with the front seven (a strength that has produced two Super Bowl titles and another appearance) is to take the chance of flashing back to mid-way through the 2007 season, when the run defense fell off without Aaron Smith and the entirety of the Steelers' defensive structure showed signs of breaking down. That's why eschewing a cornerback to select Cameron Heyward in the first round last year made sense, even when ignoring the fact that 5 technique defensive ends are far more difficult to find than cover corners. Lose the edge in run defense, and suddenly it doesn't take a Brees or a Brady to beat the Steelers.

No roster is perfect.

4. Personnel - Foul?

Despite the fact that the pass defense isn't nearly as bad as it's made out to be, the Steelers continue to take positive steps to address the issue. Bringing back Ike Taylor was the priority of the offseason. He's a top-five cornerback in the league, and his presence alone should halt the talk of the Steelers' suspect corners, as half the league would kill for a guy with his ability.

Beyond Taylor, guys like McFadden and Gay are comparable to almost all the #2 and #3 cornerbacks around the league. Watch other teams, and you'll quickly note that their down-the-depth-chart corners all get picked on. We look at pregame predictions and view matchups for the Steelers' depth wide receivers favorably, but then expect to win those matchups going the other way.

It's simply unrealistic to expect shutdown play on both sides of the field, unless you're the Eagles and decide to gamble the season by neglecting other areas of the roster, not to mention across the board depth. Nnamdi and DRC aren't going to be much help if the Eagles can't stop the run - they were 15th in the league last year and likely got worse.

The Steelers have a group of four young cornerbacks who all have the potential to help. The front office is paying attention to the issue, but they've placed the issue into perspective and recognize that they don't need to spend a 1st round pick or spend millions on a bloated contract for a free agent corner. They simply needed to find some guys worth developing, and they did.

Final Thoughts

Don't get me wrong - addressing the issue of the short passing game is certainly important when it comes to this team's pursuit of a 7th Super Bowl title, because they'll likely have to go through guys like Brady, Manning and Rodgers to earn it. While the injection of talented youth at the cornerback position is welcome, some changes in scheme likely need to be implemented as well, on both sides of the ball.

Lebeau knows what to expect when New England comes to town this year. I'm hopeful that there will be some wrinkles involved in the game plan that will allow them to get some stops or turnovers. However, we have to keep in mind that in today's NFL, great offense beats great defense.

Inviting the run like the Jets did in their playoff game would be a great start, as Brady will robotically call the plays that are most likely to work against a given front. I'd rather count on six Steelers front-seven defenders playing out of their minds against numbers in the running game than to count on pretty much any back six against the Patriots' variety of weapons.

As far as the offense, the game plan has to reflect the need to either score more points or to author more long drives to give the defense some rest while keeping the opposing offense off of the field. These are contradictory strategies, but either can work. It's simply a matter of going all-in on one of them. More than anything, they cannot have bad turnovers, especially the kind that result in a touchdown without the opposing QB even having to come on the field.

The Steelers' pass defense isn't perfect, but it's much better than advertised and figures to improve as the youngsters (assuming Lebeau lets them, though the utter lack of experienced depth is going to force his hand) get their chance to add athleticism and natural coverage ability to the cornerback unit.

i pretty much agree on all accounts....1 game left too bad of a taste in everyones mouth, this is a solid group and while clark needs to be phased out, and these young guys like butler and brown need ot be phased in and a good backup for troy needs to be found...the urgency isnt quite there yet to clean house like some suggest

and and dont put gay on gronk or TO and i think we'll be fine


08-10-2011, 11:48 AM
improving a pass rush that was #1 in sacks and mad ethe secondary #5 in picks...scary

No doubt. Perhaps that comment from Wood was motivated by the fact he has millions of reasons to get to the passer even more.:lol:

08-10-2011, 02:52 PM
Normally you think that a good pass rush is the answer to a sub par secondary. If you look at the Steelers then you'd say hell, who cares if the back 4 guys aren't that good because the pass rush is great.

You'd be right in theory but wrong on reality. It still baffles me that a secondary with quality players like Taylor and Polamalu continues to struggle.

08-11-2011, 12:35 PM
Im sorry but I just get sick with the resigning of Willie Gay..which I thought he was pretty good putting pressure on the QB he's HORRIBLE in the backfield....QBs can dink an dunk around him and nothing....this in itself makes me a nervous wreck to see see our secondary this year. Im just praying that one of the CB rookies just blows him up! I want to see someone better than Ike stepping up...I just hope they can get it together.