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Defensively, the Steelers have been very good this season in a statistical sense. In a situational sense, however, there’s still some work to be done.
Third downs are a problem against effective teams. You can’t take the performances of teams like St. Louis (which has one of the worst offenses in the league) and San Francisco (which hasn’t been able to solve anyone on third down) as indicative.
Go back to the most recent Baltimore game. The Steelers were awful on third down.
The Steelers play a different defense on third down than they do on first and second. They bring some of the bigger bodies (Casey Hampton) off the field and drop more players into coverage, particularly if the distance to the lead stick is far.
It doesn’t work very well. Quarterbacks get time to throw and the corners lose containment or are playing too far off in their zones to impact the play.
Before the playoffs, Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau need to dial things up. Leave the pass rushers on the field, send six or seven rushers. The Steelers have a fast corps of linebackers. If one or two can get lose, the quarterback will either be sacked or hurried into a bad throw.
I think this lack of pressure has contributed to the team’s awful performance in the turnover department this year. When they bring it, other teams make mistakes. They just don’t bring the house often enough.