The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the top NFL defenses led by Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, plus many more. They are also racking up a ton of points in fantasy football leagues making owners very, very happy.
There are some things in life that are certain.
3. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense smacking you in the mouth when you are on the opposite team.
With all the talk that the Steelers had no chance of success without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers defense has spent the first three games of the 2010 NFL Season, reminding people that the Defense in Pittsburgh is what this teams reputation has been built on over the last 40 years.
It was a challenge, by not only Mike Tomlin, but every nay sayer and doubter across America that said the Steelers were finished.
Over the last three weeks, we learned some facts about the Steelers defense, and I present them to you.
It is said that when selecting people for the Hall of Fame, the only thing that should be looked at is either his playing days, or his coaching days. If that's true, then Dick LeBeau should be enshrined again for his coaching days after he retires.
LeBeau, the architect of the Zone Blitz, has changed the way defense in the NFL has been played. More and more teams are switching to the 3-4 defense, because of the success of the Steelers.
The reason the Steelers are so successful is because of LeBeau.
The team actually looks at LeBeau as a "father" figure. They play hard for him because he is more than a coach; the defense is a family.
Talk all you want about Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or any other player in the NFL, and NONE of them mean as much to their team as Troy Polamalu means to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 2009, when Polamalu played more than a quarter of a game, the Steelers were 4-0. When he did not play, they were 5-7.
Polamalu is a once in a generation player, and the driving force behind the Steelers defense. He can do it all: blitz, cover the other teams best corner, return interceptions, blow up a back field, and even leap tall offensive lines to tackle a QB that is trying to sneak for a first down. Ask Kerry Collins and Joe Flacco how that one feels.
On every play that Polamalu is in the game the offense needs to account for him. It alters the way the QB can read the field, because if he is throwing it to the side of the field Polamalu is on odds are the play is not going to be successful.
As the first player drafted by Mike Tomlin, people have been waiting for Lawrence Timmons to become the all around player he was drafted to be.
Well, the wait is over, and Timmons has become a rock on the inside of the Steelers defense.
Speed, power and strength are only a part of it, as Timmons has FINALLY learned the defensive play book enough to be the monster he was drafted to be.
There is also talk that Dick LeBeau is going to start doing more with Timmons like he does with Polamalu. He is going to have more room to improvise, which has been lethal to the teams lining up across from him.
Most of the time, when you have a corner that can't catch the ball it's a good idea to attack him often without fear of interception.
Not in Pittsburgh, and not against Ike Taylor.
Taylor dropped a sure interception Sunday against the Buccaneers. The ball hit him in the hand, and as I stated at the time, I don't think he could catch a ball if it was made out of velcro and he had velcro gloves on.
Taylor has had a TOTAL of nine interceptions in his career, and since this is his eighth season, that gives him an average of about 1.1 per season.
He is big and fast, and does a great job at keeping the receiver he is guarding from catching the ball, which is why most QB's don't like to throw his way.
I have said before, and will say again, IF Ike Taylor could learn how to catch, he would be in the Pro Bowl every year.
Not only can he cover, but in run support he is one of the best corners in the NFL. He has a big frame and is not afraid to lower his shoulder and take someone head on.
It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong, so here goes...
I WAS WRONG!
I wrote in an article prior to the start of the regular season that James Farrior was done. I said he was a liability, and that the Steelers should cut him before he costs them a game.
OK, most of you told me so. I didn't want to listen. Leave it in the comments if you want to rub it in.
I am NOT saying that he is the player he used to be, and I still think he has slowed down considerably. That doesn't take away from the fact that he is still great against the run, and his leadership has a LOT to do with the success of the defense in the first three weeks.
Many used the age of the defensive line as one of the excuses to write the Steelers off in 2010.
So far, they have gone up against two players that could be playing in the Pro Bowl come February and have shut them down like they were practice squad rejects.
Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons and Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans are two players that are counted on by their teams to ground out yardage and open up passing lanes.
The Steelers played them in the first two weeks of the season, and held each of them to UNDER 40 yards rushing.
Is the Steelers line one of the oldest in the league? YEP. Do they play like it? NOPE!
The 3-4 defense is hard to play against for most teams, especially ones that don't see it very often. It's so hard because the offense never knows which OLB is going to be rushing the passer.
Some times it's one, some times it's the other. Some times it's both.
That is what makes the Steelers defense so hard to play against. Two of the best Outside Line Backers in the NFL play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, so on every play you have to account for BOTH.
James Harrison is currently the highest paid player on the Defense of the Steelers, but that contract is going to be eclipsed this off season when the Steelers re-sign Woodley.
Harrison has already won Defensive MVP, and Woodley may be the next Steeler to win it (Troy Polamalu is going to win the MVP, not the Defensive MVP).
If a team decides to commit to blocking BOTH Woodley and Harrison, odds are there will be a blitz up the middle with Timmons, and that could be even worse for the offense.
Here is a lesson in Football 101, for those of you that don't know.
On most teams, the best corner DOES NOT cover the other teams best receiver. You allow your top guy to cover the other teams number two receiver, and you give your number two guy saftey help covering their best.
That is why against the Atlanta Falcons Bryant McFadden was matched up with Roddy White the entire game. Many people will be quick to point to Whites 13 receptions for 111 yards. I will point to the 13 passes that were defended by McFadden that White DID NOT catch.
What would have happened if Will Gay had been covering White? I am sure his stats would have been better.
It seems like the Steelers always find a way to draft a player late in the draft (after the 4th round) and have him turn into a stud.
They have found their next stud, in Stevenson Sylvester.
Sylvester has not had a lot of playing time with the defense, but in his limited action, and on special teams, he has shown, at least to me, that he is going to play at the level of Greg Lloyd or Joey Porter.
He plays with fire, passion, and likes to hit.
As a rookie with the Steelers we have yet to hear him speak, so at this point, I cannot tell if he is going to have the same attitude or trash talking ability.
I can tell you that he likes to hit, and once he knows the play book can earn some time on the field. He will one day be one of the players that Steelers fans love to talk about.
The Steelers defense is currently ranked sixth in the NFL. They have allowed 836 total yards. 657 yards passing (17th in the NFL), and 179 rushing (3rd in the NFL).
What these stats do not take into account is that against the Titans 112 yards came while in the prevent defense at the end of the game. Against the Buccaneers, 172 yards came while the Steelers starters were not in the game.
Subtract the 184 yards from the 836 and you get 652 yards against, which would rank the Steelers total defense in first. By 81 yards.
The statistic that is not included in these numbers is turnovers, which the Steelers lead the NFL in with 10, two more than any other team.
They are also tied for fourth in the league with 10 sacks. One behind Detroit and Philadelphia, and three behind Green Bay.
For all of those people that predicted the decline of the Steelers defense it is time to admit that you were wrong.
This Steelers defense has played to this point as one of the greatest defenses in a LONG time. IF, they continue on this pace, the sky is the limit for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Once Ben Roethlisberger returns from suspension, then it's hard to imagine that these Steelers are not going to be considered Super Bowl favorites.