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The Pittsburgh Steelers came into the game as vulnerable as they have ever been concerning their pass defense, and for a reason unknown, Bill Belichick seems to be the only coach in the league who recognizes and is willing to exploit the glaring weakness.
The Patriots have passed well over 70 percent of the time against the Steelers in their last seven meetings, and they are 6-1 against Pittsburgh in that span.
During the last several years it has been more than evident that the Steelers’ pass rush is the only thing keeping their pass defense respectable. When they dial back the pressure on the quarterback, Steelers typically get picked apart.
From the very start of Sunday night’s game the Steelers put very little pressure on the quarterback, and proceeded to line their defensive backs up in man coverage with a seven to 10-yard cushion on the outside.
In other aspects of game plan, Dick LeBeau has converted the role that Troy Polamalu has played for the better part of the last eight years into a much less definitive role played by linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
While Timmons has been great this season in almost every facet of his game, the change in roles from Week 3 to Week 10 this season has minimized and otherwise rendered Troy Polamalu meaningless in terms of his effect on the game.
Polamalu, while gifted athletically, is not your average defensive back. While he can cover downfield, Polamalu is so much more in terms of what he brings to the table defensively.
Many choose not to criticize the defensive decisions made by LeBeau, and I have always given honor where honor is due concerning the genius that LeBeau has displayed in his Hall of Fame career, but reputation can only earn a free pass for so long.
LeBeau’s defensive game plan has put the Steelers in some dangerous late-game situations in the last two seasons. The game plan tonight and decisions concerning the use of Polamalu lack the wisdom Steelers’ fans have come to expect from him as a defensive coordinator.
With zero sacks tonight and zero turnovers, the correlation between pressure, turnovers and wins is quite obvious.