Week 3 2009
That was Leftwich’s last start as a quarterback. And, it wasn’t as a Pittsburgh Steeler either. The injury prone
relief pitcher backup QB will be starting this Sunday against the rival Ravens. It’s a pretty tall task to get a win against the Ravens without Ben. It’s even taller when you have to do it with Byron Leftwich. That’s why there will be so much pressure on the defense this Sunday to get the job done – none greater than on the front 7.
The priorities for the Steelers defense will be to 1) Stop Ray Rice and 2) Make Joe Flacco uncomfortable. Both of those responsibilities will be on the defensive line and the linebackers. I guess you could argue that the front 3 of Kiesel, Hampton and Hood are charged more than the others, but the linebackers will need to take advantage of any opportunity that the defensive line gives them. Stopping Rice will cause the Ravens to throw more – even though the Ravens will throw more even if Rice has a career day. Making Flacco uncomfortable in the pocket will cause him to make mistakes – and that’s a Flacco we know and love.
The Pittsburgh defense has not been the stout run stopping defense of yester years. As Dom pointed out in his most recent post, the defense has been porous. Though they are ranked 6th in the league in run D, they’ve allowed some running backs with big days. The sloppy field and bad weather accounted for some of Charles’ yards on Monday night, but Charles’ performance was more indicative to how the line has been playing rather than Mother Nature adding an interesting layer to the evening. All three need to eat up defenders and help close up the running lanes. They also need to get some penetration to break out any runs that go out wide – take advantage of the fact that both of the Ravens inner guards are fighting off injury. If they are asked to pull on a play going wide left or right, that might be just the thing the line needs to help break up the lanes and allow the linebackers to get to Rice. The defensive line has taken less criticism this season than the secondary, yet they are a big reason why the secondary has it’s blatant failures at times. The lack of push from the line that is characteristic of this season has been detrimental to the pass rush. This needs to change in order for the defense to stop Rice and get pressure on Flacco.
The linebackers will need to step up just as much as the defensive line. James Harrison, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, and LaMarr Woodley have been all but invisible at times this season. They all have been struggling with minor or significant injuries throughout the season that has affected their play. Harrison and Woodley need to apply more pressure on the outside. This will force the TE or RB spots to hang back for double teams or picking up the blitz. Timmons and Foote need to have a great day blitzing up the middle. This will help stop the run, force the runs outside (which is more helpful for the Steelers), and allow for LeBeau to switch up the blitzing schemes to include more stunts to the inside from the outside pair of linebackers.
If these 7 can have solid days in the trenches, then Rice will have an ineffective day and Flacco should experience a continuously collapsing pocket. If the front 7 can’t get this kind of penetration and pressure, then Rice will have a pretty good day and Tory Smith will have an even bigger one down the field. And, that spells trouble and more than likely a loss for the Steelers on Sunday.