As we all unfortunately know, the Steelers are continuing to get bit by the “injury bug.” Starters such as Rashard Mendenhall are no-go’s, and Maurkice Pouncey and Big Ben are still hobbled by their ankle injuries. Adding to Pittsburgh’s long list of boo-boo’s, Ryan Clark will be unable to play due to his blood disorder which almost killed him the last time he had to play in The Mile High City. That being said, one Steeler in particular will be asked to pick up the slack during Clark’s one week absence: Ryan Mundy.
This Saturday will mark the first Postseason start for the 4th year pro out of Michigan and West Virginia. Mundy, who was born in Pittsburgh and also went to Woodland Hills High, has done a nice job in a reserve role for the Steelers in 2011, collecting 37 Tackles with 1 INT to boot. In addition, Mundy had himself a solid day filling in for an injured Polamalu durng the Steelers’ Sunday Night slop-fest against the Chiefs. But with Clark out, Mundy will have to be ready for anything that come his way against Denver this Sunday. Thus, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss and break down what to expect from Mundy tomorrow, and what it will take for him to help the Steelers’ Defense turn in a successful performance as well.
Against the Run
It will be adamant that Mundy is able to play well “in the box” this weekend more than ever. Tim Tebow isn’t the reincarnation of Drew Brees when it comes to slingin’ the rock, and Denver’s WR corps is not what you would call the most talented in the League. That being said, the Broncos will likely try to ground-and-pound the Steelers (like they have every opponent since they inserted His Holiness) to not only take the ball out of Tebow’s hands in the passing game, but also keep the Steelers’ older Defense on the field with the altitude.
If the Broncos are able to run successfully on 1st and 2nd Downs with Willis McGahee and Lance Ball, 3rd and manageable situations will be exactly what they are for a QB of Tebow’s below-average caliber: Manageable. If this happens, Denver will be able to sustain drives and give Tebow confidence. And confidence Steeler Nation, is something which needs to be stolen from Tebow within the first or second time he drops back to pass.
Granted, stopping the run isn’t all on Mundy. It’s the entire Defense’s #1 perogative for tomorrow and it must happen, no questions asked. It is imperative however that Mundy can channel his inner-Clark and at least provide somewhat adequate help in run support to snuff out Denver’s Offense’s bread-and-butter strategy. If Mundy can play anywhere near Clark’s level (100 Tackles and 4 TFL this season), and the rest of the Defense commits to stopping the ground attack, the Steelers’ will be just fine.
Against the Pass
Luckily, Mundy will likely not face too many issues against Denver’s anemic passing attack. Mundy just needs to go out there, perform his assignment solidly on every play, and all will be well. It’s not like the Steelers are facing the Patriots, Packers, Saints, or Chargers in Round One. They are facing the N.F.L.’s 2nd worst Passing Offense, and a lot of pressure will be alleviated from Mundy and the rest of the secondary because of it. In fact, I do hope the Broncos end up going to their “aerial attack” by the 2nd Quarter because that will only mean one thing: They’re losing bad, and They need a helluva lot a help.
All the Steelers’ Secondary (Mundy included) needs to do is not blow any coverages, stick to their assignments, and let the finally healthy pass-rush (hopefully) scare the ever-loving piss out of Tebow. If there were any week that the Steelers’ Secondary could collect numerous Turnovers it would be this one, because if the Broncos’ running game is stuffed, and Tebow is forced to throw against the League’s #1 Pass Defense, only good things can happen for the Steelers.
While he will never be the intimidating hitter that Ryan Clark is, hopefully Mundy can let the Denver pass-catchers know that the middle of the field is his territory and that just because Clark is out, a toll still needs to be paid while catching the ball over the middle. More importantly though, let’s hope Mundy plays well enough and understands enough of what is going on in the passing game to allow Polamalu to do a bit of his “free-lance” work on the back as well as the front ends. If this can happen, it would be a huge victory for the Steelers’ Defense.
With Clark out, this could be a nice stepping-stone for Mundy as a Steeler. It can’t hurt to give a guy that is the #1 backup at the Safety position some starting reps. against a foe that isn’t what you would call “top-notch.” Moreover, I hope that Mundy takes his chance to play seriously and uses it to parlay it into some more playing time further down the road. Clark is getting up there in years and the Steelers haven’t drafted a Safety in a while, so Mundy appears to be the heir apparent at the FS spot.
So let’s cross our fingers and root on Mundy and the rest of the Steelers tomorrow. All they need to do is play to their capabilities and all will be well. As long as the Broncos aren’t given any chinsey or free points, the Steelers should roll in spite of their injuries. Let’s just hope that Pouncey and Ben can get better by Round 2.
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