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Thread: Steelers won't back down from Denver's Bailey

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    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    Steelers won't back down from Denver's Bailey

    Friday, October 19, 2007
    By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Defensive back Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos.Cedrick Wilson remembers the play that started the Steelers on their way to an AFC championship game victory in Denver and a trip to Super Bowl XL: A slant-and-go pass to him in the corner of the end zone that gave the Steelers a 10-0 lead.

    He remembers the play for another reason, too. It came against Champ Bailey, generally regarded as the best cornerback in the National Football League.

    Throwing in Bailey's direction is considered an NFL no-no, right up there with putting eight men in the box against Peyton Manning. But the Steelers did it then and say they will do it again Sunday when they return to Denver for the first time since the 2005 AFC title game.

    "Oh, no," Wilson said. "Champ, he's good. But we can't back away from him. He's a corner. You just have to go play."

    How good is Bailey?

    Forget that he is the only cornerback to make the Pro Bowl each of the past seven seasons, or that he has intercepted more passes than any defensive back in the league (22) since joining the Broncos in 2004.

    The true measure of his talent -- and the respect with which he is accorded -- is that opposing teams threw at Bailey just 35 times last season. Amazingly, he broke up 21 of those passes, including a career-high 10 interceptions. Receivers caught only four of those 35 throws.

    "He's one of those guys who could play every sport and be an All-Pro in each one," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

    "He's the best," said Hines Ward, who played with Bailey at the University of Georgia. "He catches like a wide receiver. Some of the other cornerbacks in the league, they put their hands on the ball and they drop it. You make a mistake on Champ, he will catch the ball and he has that ability to take that interception down for a score."

    It might be a stretch to say Bailey is the reason the Broncos (2-3) have the best pass defense in the league, allowing just 145.6 yards per game. More likely, teams haven't thrown for a lot of yards against the Broncos because they're having too much success running the ball.

    Denver is allowing an average of 187.6 yards rushing per game, a staggering 75.4 yards above the league average and easily on pace to be the worst in the team's 47-year history (158.6 in 1988). After allowing just one team in the previous three seasons to rush for 200 or more yards in a game, the Broncos have allowed three of the past four opponents to rush for more than 200 yards.

    At that rate, the Steelers don't have to stay away from Bailey. They can afford to avoid the entire Broncos secondary altogether.

    Especially when they have the NFL's No. 2 rushing attack, averaging 167 yards per game.

    "That's who we are, we're going to run the ball," said Ward, who will return after missing the past two games with a sprained knee. "I told you, we're not the spread offense everyone hopes us to be."

    Still, the Steelers insist they will not throw away from Bailey, who had two interceptions in the Broncos' 31-20 victory last year at Heinz Field.

    One of the reasons: The other Broncos cornerback is Dre Bly, a two-time Pro Bowler who was acquired in trade with the Detroit Lions. He has 34 career interceptions.

    "You have to respect Champ, but you can't be afraid of him," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has passed for 708 yards and three touchdowns in two games against the Broncos.

    "We're not going to shy away from him," Ward said. "Yes, it's going to be a challenge because those guys have that play-making ability to change a game. Anytime you get two great corners who have a lot of interceptions in their career, it's definitely something to look at. But, at the same time, we're definitely not going to shy away from one person."

    Ward said the Steelers have had success throwing against the Broncos, and even at Bailey. He pointed to the AFC championship game victory, when Wilson caught a 12-yard touchdown against Bailey.

    Ward also noted he had seven catches for 127 yards in last year's loss to the Broncos, a game in which Roethlisberger had career highs for attempts (52) and yards (433) and set a team record with 38 completions.

    Santonio Holmes, who leads all NFL receivers with 14 or more catches in yards per catch (20.4), said the Steelers can't afford to throw away from Bailey.

    "When you do that, it puts your receivers in a bind, saying, OK, we can't beat him," said Holmes, who will return after missing the Seattle game. "They lose a lot of confidence, knowing we're not going to throw to [Bailey's] side and we're going to play away from him. When you do that, your receivers tend to get out of the focus of the game. They don't want to play anymore."
    I like the attack attitude that we have this year. In years past we'd still throw a WR who is being covered by a big time CB but we wouldn't go there that often but this year we're not afraid to throw it and we know we have playmakers all over the offense to keep the ball moving in the passing game. If Ben is smart with the ball we could do some damage through the air.

  2. #2
    Starter Ibleedblk&gld's Avatar
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    and javon walker is out indefinitely

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    AZ_Steeler's Avatar
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    Throwing away from somebody should not be part of the gameplan because then it dorks everything else up and you've already said they won that particular battle. That's not good game planning because everyone is bound to have a bad day/game at some point plus if you start completing a couple passes in their area that confidence starts to crumble then they try harder which leads to more mistakes.

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    Banned K Train's Avatar
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    you gotta attack his side of the field, not aim away, thats what they want you to do, hes good, but hes not that good. the offense always has the advantage

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    i like the attitude that they will attack the entire field, just like big ben said as long as they r smart with it,i really like our chances this sunday,we need 2 come out throwing an then killem with the run.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by black an gold 4 life View Post
    i like the attitude that they will attack the entire field, just like big ben said as long as they r smart with it,i really like our chances this sunday,we need 2 come out throwing an then killem with the run.......
    That seems to be a formula that works well for us. Maybe let Hines throw one deep, or have D-Sep run it on a punt fake

  7. #7
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    Agreed--you can't be so afraid of one player that they let it dictate what you do, just as long as you're smart about it.

    Charlie Frye said JUST before the Browns played them last year that he would be throwing in Champ's direction, and the FIRST time he did, he got picked off. Just gotta make sure that the ball is put where only OUR guy can get it.

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