Saturday, September 23, 2006
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If it appears the Steelers' cornerbacks are giving a sizeable cushion to wide receivers, they are. It is the design of their Blitzburgh defense. But that is only supposed to be the case before the pass is thrown.
Still, in the shutout loss Monday night in Jacksonville, the Steelers appeared to give too much room to Jaguars receivers Reggie Williams and Matt Jones and allowed quarterback Byron Leftwich to complete 26 of 39 passes for 260 yards. At one point, coach Bill Cowher yanked cornerback Ike Taylor for a play after he gave up back-to-back completions to a wide-open Jones along the sideline.
The Steelers cannot afford to be so generous with their defensive space tomorrow against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0), not against quarterback Carson Palmer. Not with a receiving group that includes Chad Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowler, and deep threats Chris Henry and Kelly Washington.
But that is the way their scheme is designed -- keeping the cornerbacks mostly out of press, or bump-and-run, coverage because of the number of fire-zone blitzes employed in Dick LeBeau's defense.
It is a style different than the one used by, say, Jacksonville, which had its cornerbacks bumping and pressing Steelers receivers at the line of scrimmage in its 9-0 shutout victory.
"That's because they got a safety playing two-deep most of the time," said safety Tyrone Carter. "When they're doing that, you can see they got a deep safety back there."
The Steelers, though, rarely play a cover-two defense -- "We're not a cover-two team," said cornerback Deshea Townsend -- because they rely on their cornerbacks to keep the receiver in front of them and not give up the deep pass.
But they also want their corners to play off the line of scrimmage so they won't have their backs turned to the play. That gives them a better view of the field on blitz plays when offenses try to "sneak" players into pass formations.
Because the Steelers rely so much on their fire-zone blitzes, the cornerbacks sometimes have to cover other areas and pick up other receivers.