Senin, 12 September 2011

Steelers Defense Shows its Age

By Mark Madden
The Beaver County Times
September 12, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: Ray Rice(notes) #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 35-7. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

I knew some of the Steelers' defenders were old.

But I never thought they would all turn to dust at the same time.

Everybody in Pittsburgh colors shoulders some blame in the wake of Sunday's 35-7 mauling at the hands of host Baltimore, not the least quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who turned the ball over five times.

But defense is supposed to be the Steelers' anchor, the team's foundation. Eight defenders are 30 or older, with cornerback Bryant McFadden hitting that milestone come November. But experience counts, right?

Uh, right?

A lot of guys got paid on defense recently. But few earned their money at Baltimore as the Ravens gashed the Steelers badly. Ray Rice rushed for 107 yards, Ricky Williams for 63 more behind a slapdash offensive line. At the half, Rice had more offensive yards than the Steelers, 127-113.

The Steelers have allowed a 100-yard rusher just twice in 51 games, Rice both times. That's a testament to his ability and desire.

But that club figures to become much less exclusive, and in short order. The Steelers' defense got roasted statistically, and it didn't pass the eye test, either. Too much inertia. Standing around, to use layman's terms.

Lawrence Timmons had 12 tackles. But many were made far up the field as he too often overran the play. But at least Timmons hustled. Few did.

Pressure on Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was absolutely minimal. LaMarr Woodley didn't get the Steelers' only sack until the first play of the fourth quarter. Flacco had oodles of time as he stood behind an offensive line that had never played together as a unit before.

The defense didn't limit itself to conventional embarrassment. Ike Taylor somehow found the motivation to run his mouth in the middle of all that humiliation, touching off a scrum that saw even Troy Polamalu get involved. When Polamalu loses his head, rest assured stupidity rules the day.

The Steelers won the toss and elected to put their defense on the field. Maybe that sort of decision-making has grown old along with the defense, especially since Baltimore went 66 yards on three plays to go up 7-0. Too easy.

The Steelers' offense was no better. The offensive line got no push. Doug Legursky's size killed him. Haloti Ngata manhandled him as scheme dictated. Roethlisberger was under siege and made poor decisions when he wasn't. Hines Ward couldn't get open until garbage time.

This is a pretty thorough excoriation based on just one game. But the damage inflicted figures to go beyond yesterday. The Ravens won't feel like the Steelers' whipping boys anytime soon. Baltimore's veterans ran around and made plays all day: Ed Reed had two interceptions, Ray Lewis one.

The criticism will only get worse. The Steelers' age on defense will be a constant topic. When the Steelers played in the Super Bowl in 2006 and 2009, they missed the playoffs the next season. Think that won't be discussed?

That's the price of pedigree. You're under a microscope when you're one of the NFL's most storied franchises. The Steelers need to deal with it, and probably will. But if yesterday causes pessimism to pour forth in the papers, on the Internet and on the talk shows, it's understandable.

The Steelers were every bit as bad as the score, probably worse.

The Steelers looked soft. When's the last time that was said?

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