By Brandon Thorn nfldraftdog.com & Pittsburgh Steelers featured writer
2 January 2009
Defense leads the charge into the playoffs
The Steelers capped off a 12-4 season with a 31-0 blowout against the hated Cleveland Browns, not a bad way to enter the post season. Pittsburgh finished the year with one of the better defenses in their illustrious history. Not very comparable to some of the all-time great defenses but this year nobody was better, and the stats speak for themselves. Finished #1 in total defense(1st against the pass, 2nd against the run). Ranked 1st in points given up a game with 13.9 & 2nd in sacks (51) to the Cowboy's (59).
Their most impressive stat of all may be they only gave up 300 yards of total offense once ALL year. Pair that unit with a running game that just seemed to be catching a groove and this team could make a run for the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh has a first-round bye heading into the playoffs and it is much needed especially with the concussion that QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered against Cleveland. It has been reported it is just a mild concussion and with the extra week off, he should be ready to go 100% for the winner of the San Diego Indianapolis game. We could be in for a rematch of the 24-20 thriller in week 10 in which the Colts came back to win in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1968.
What makes the Steelers so dangerous for any opponent they will face this post season is their dominating defense. The mastermind behind it all is defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau and he has been in the NFL for more then 50 years (35 years coaching). Lebeau has this unit playing sound fundamental football to go along with an unmatched intensity. Headed by maybe the most versatile player on any defense and the best strong safety in football- SS Troy Polamalu, a fierce pass-rusher who is as strong at the point of attack as anyone in the league- OLB James Harrison, an immovable object in the middle- NT Casey Hampton, and another demon off the edge in only his 2nd year-OLB LaMar Woodley, this defense has weapons and they know how to use them. It was always said that the Steelers biggest weakness was their secondary but that can be said no more with Mike Tomlin as their head coach. Being a secondary specialist he has them playing near flawless.
Whoever is coming into Pittsburgh next weekend is coming into a madhouse with a team who will be focused, disciplined, and ready to hit you in the mouth for 4 quarters. The one thing the Steelers have to worry about is their pass protection which has been their biggest weakness all year. RB Willie Parker appears to be healthy so if they can get him going Big Ben wont have to throw the ball more then 20-25 times and when he doesn't he is at his best. If San Diego or Miami comes into Pittsburgh as intriguing as both teams are, neither will have much of a chance. The game everyone expects and will want to see is Indianapolis and QB Peyton Manning coming into Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. Head coach Tony Dungy has a deep history with the Steelers, and they have a battle earlier in the year so there will be plenty of sub-plots to the game. Now we will just have to see how well head coach Mike Tomlin can prepare his players for the big game. Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go!
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