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Even after a resounding win over the Buffalo Bills Sunday, the 3-6 Pittsburgh Steelers are still suffering through a miserable 2013.
However, as AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst points out, even in a season where not a lot has gone right, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau continues to rattle young quarterbacks:
Last week, the bulk of critics’ ire at the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive performance in their 24-point loss to the New England Patriots was directed at longtime coordinator Dick LeBeau. The Steelers gave up 610 yards and 55 points—both franchise-worsts. Did it mean LeBeau’s vaunted defense, known for its crazy blitz packages and unpredictability, had finally worn out its welcome in the NFL?
Though experienced quarterbacks like Tom Brady may have LeBeau figured out, one area in which LeBeau really excels is against young passers. No matter how much film they study in preparation, and no matter the defenses they faced in college, a rookie quarterback trying to figure out the Steelers defense is generally in over his head.
That was certainly the case on Sunday, when the Steelers notched their third win of the season over the EJ Manuel-led Buffalo Bills, 23-10. Manuel, making his return from a knee injury, was rusty, but that was simply just a part of his struggles.
The Steelers sacked Manuel three times and picked him off once. Most importantly, they managed to make the Bills offense one-dimensional. Going into this week, the Bills were a top-10 rushing team, averaging 145.8 rushing yardage per game. At the same time, the Steelers had been struggling against the run, allowing a 31st-ranked 131.2 rushing yards per game. Stopping the run and forcing Manuel to throw was the only option for the Steelers, and they managed to do so better than imagined.
The Bills had just 95 rushing yards on the day, with running back Fred Jackson leading the way with 55 yards on his 12 carries. In total, the Bills ran just 22 times compared to 39 pass attempts. Some of that was owing to the Bills playing from behind for much of the game, but mostly it was because the Steelers defense was able to make Manuel and Buffalo’s offense play right into their hands. Manuel managed just 155 yards on those 39 attempts.
Just going back to 2011, it’s clear the Steelers defense has a major advantage over young quarterbacks. This year, they got their first win of the season over the Geno Smith-led New York Jets, who threw for just 184 yards and two picks. Last year, they defeated Washington, 27-12, by containing dangerous dual-threat quarterback Robert Griffin III.
They did the same to the Brandon Weeden-led Browns in Week 17 of last season, to then-rookie Andy Dalton in two straight wins over the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011, and to the Blaine Gabbert Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.
Perhaps the Tom Bradys of the NFL have LeBeau’s number—something that should be cause for some concern in Pittsburgh. But for young quarterbacks, there’s no more intimidating defense than Pittsburgh’s.