New Castle News

Steelers

October 4, 2012

Harrison’s return a big boost to Steelers defense

PITTSBURGH — LaMarr Woodley says it’s not so much the double teams, or the chip from a running back, or even the way an opposing offense might shift its protection scheme to his side of the field.

The absence of fellow former All Pro Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison has had a much less tangible effect on Woodley.

“I really can’t tell as far as, like, the protection schemes,” Woodley said.

But make no mistake. Like the rest of the 1-2 Steelers, Woodley is ecstatic that Harrison is on track to make his season debut Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) come to Pittsburgh.

Harrison practiced fully yesterday, and all indications are he will be on the field chasing Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.   

“He definitely makes a difference,” Woodley said of Harrison. “Then, (offenses) kind of have to pick their poison.”

Long known as Blitzburgh under coordinator Dick LeBeau because of its reputation for racking up sacks, the Steelers defense has only five of them through three games. Harrison might not be a cure-all, but he certainly can’t hurt for a game some Steelers are already calling a “must-win.”

“James is a great, great player,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “When he’s out there, he’s definitely a difference-maker for us. Teams have to account for him and possibly have to double-team him. It creates opportunities for others.”

The player who would figure to most benefit is Woodley, who has averaged .83 sacks per game (counting playoffs) over the past four-plus seasons. Woodley has had one sack in each of the past two games out of his customary left outside linebacker position, but Harrison’s replacements on the other side haven’t come close to matching his sack production. Harrison has 58 sacks and needs two more to tie Joey Porter for second on the franchise career list; Chris Carter and Jason Worilds have combined for one sack this season.

It’s a big reason why the defense that had ranked in the top three of the NFL in six of the previous eight years has plummeted to 21st four weeks into this season.

“We’ve had opportunities to get sacks and missed a few, so it’s just about taking advantage of what you get and when you get your hands on a quarterback, getting him on the ground,” Keisel said.

That simple task figures to be as difficult as it will be all season for the Steelers on Sunday with the speedy, elusive Vick in town. Vick is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher for a quarterback, so pursuing him isn’t as simple as it is with a traditional, plodding pocket passer.

“With Michael Vick, it’s not about necessarily making the play as it is stopping him from making the play,” safety Ryan Clark said. “Maybe sometimes you can’t rush up the field or you can’t go inside because you want to keep that pocket and keep him inside and make him a pocket passer.”

Vick has been sacked 11 times through Philadelphia’s first four games. Five of those came in the Eagles’ lone loss, at Arizona.

“We want to get him moving a little bit inside the pocket and not outside the pocket, force him to make some bad decisions and give our secondary an opportunity to make some plays,” Woodley said.

But in addition to ranking tied for 29th in the league in sacks, the Steelers have managed only one interception this season.

The lack of those kinds of “splash plays” — to use coach Mike Tomlin’s vernacular — is, as much as anything, why the Steelers are 1-2 for the first time under Tomlin. In addition to Harrison, All Pro safety Troy Polamalu is practicing fully and expected to return to action against the Eagles after missing the past two games.

Vick has been prone to throw interceptions when rushed into making quick decisions. That shifts the burden back onto the Steelers’ pair of prominent pass-rushers.

Harrison and Woodley each dealt with injuries last season, meaning it’s been more than a year since both were on the field at the same time and 100 percent healthy.

The prospect of that changing has Woodley salivating.

“Hopefully being that we have James back,” said Woodley, “we will get some pressure on that side, and that will make (Vick) come back to me.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Steelers
  • SteelersSpence.jpg Steelers LB Spence caps lengthy comeback

    The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.

     

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wheaton.jpg Steelers' Wheaton eyeing chance after tough rookie year

    Markus Wheaton realizes the pressure is there, but he doesn’t mind.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 628x471.jpg Legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll dies at 82

    Chuck Noll, the Hall of Fame coach who won a record four Super Bowl titles with the Pittsburgh Steelers, died last night at his home. He was 82. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner said Noll died of natural causes.

    June 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • demedal.tiff Pro Football: After taking part in minicamp, DeMedal playing 'waiting game' with Steelers

    Jake DeMedal’s football career is in limbo. After competing in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie minicamp May 15-18, the Wilmington High and St. Francis University (Loretto, Pa.) product is waiting to hear back from the team if he should report to Latrobe in July for training camp.

    June 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pro Football: Munchak to join Steelers’ staff

    Mike Munchak is going back to his roots, and heading closer to home in the process. A person familiar with the decision said Wednesday night the former Tennessee Titans head coach will join the Pittsburgh Steelers as offensive line coach.

    January 23, 2014

  • steelerswrapup.jpg Steelers humbled but optimistic after 8-8 finish

     The Pittsburgh Steelers have seven long months to think about what exactly happened in 2013. Are they closer to the team that looked lost and overmatched at times during a 2-6 start? Or are they closer to the one that went 6-2 over the final eight weeks and came within a shanked field goal and a botched penalty call in San Diego from making the playoffs?

    December 31, 2013 1 Photo

  • Treu.jpg Steve Treu: Chiefs’ missed field goal left Steelers where they belonged

    A successful boot by the Kansas City placekicker was all that separated Pittsburgh from a wildly improbable postseason berth.

    December 30, 2013 1 Photo

  • steelersousted.jpg Steelers win, but fail to reach playoffs

    Pittsburgh played like it didn’t want its season to end. Cleveland looked as though it couldn’t wait to pack things up and go home.

    December 29, 2013 1 Photo

  • steelersalive.jpg Steelers somehow still alive for playoffs

    The math remains tricky. The circumstances remain less than ideal. And yet, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still alive for the playoffs entering the final week of the season. 

    December 24, 2013 1 Photo

  • Treu.jpg Steve Treu: Steelers up the ante at the end of lackluster season

    That was worth it. No matter what happens next weekend, that was worth it. Yesterday’s high-fiving, head-scratching, jaw-dropping, curse-inducing, postseason death-defying 38-31 victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Green Bay Packers made this otherwise forgettable 2013 season at least somewhat memorable.

    December 23, 2013 1 Photo

House Ads
Poll

Would you want to know what your pet is thinking about you?

Yes! I'd love to know what my pet is thinking.
Nah, it's probably not that interesting.
I don't know. I'm afraid of what I might find out.
     View Results