Steelers begin prepping for opposing 4-3 defenses
By Mark Kaboly, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Bruce Arians promised the Steelers will run the ball better this year. To do that, his offense is doing things they have never done before in training camp.
Because the Steelers struggled getting a running game going against 4-3 defensive fronts a year ago and have 10 games against teams that use four down linemen and three linebackers this year, they are preparing themselves now.
The offense spent a good portion of Wednesday morning's practice running team drills against a 4-3 front to get the players used to the look.
Not only was it the first time this camp they have done such a thing, it was the first time they have ever worked on it during practice.
"In years past, we wouldn't even practice it," Arians said. "We would just go play them. It is a real disadvantage to the offensive line."
The Steelers' offense goes up against their 3-4 defense every day during practice. When the games come around against teams that don't run that front, they are at a disadvantage.
"It is very hard for these guys to see a 3-4 blitzing defense the entire spring and the entire camp, and then go up against an entirely different defense, especially the assignment part of it in the running game," Arians said.
Seven of the Steelers' worst rushing performances a year ago came against 4-3 teams. Their five best rushing days (202 against Miami, 177 against San Diego, 173 against Denver, 152 against Baltimore, 140 against Cleveland) came against the 3-4.
"We don't get to see that defense (4-3) that much," right guard Trai Essex said. "It is not a big adjustment, but it is good that we are doing this during practice."
The offense doesn't necessarily practice the techniques of a penetrating 4-3 defense during drills, but more along the lines of what to expect out of the defense.
"If you don't practice against it, then you aren't going to get better," tackle Max Starks said.
The Steelers will get a good look at the 4-3 during preseason. Three of their four exhibition opponents run the front — Detroit, the New York Giants and Carolina — and the Steelers open the season with three consecutive games against 4-3 teams — Atlanta, Tennessee and Tampa Bay.
"We usually throw the ball pretty well in those situations, but it is something we feel that we have to address," Arians said.