The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known for their ferocious linebackers and the 2005 Steelers are no exception. Joey Porter,Clark Haggans, James Farrior andLarry Foote lead a Steelers defense that has recorded 11 sacks and given up an average of only 262 yards in their first two games this season.
The Steelers linebacking corps is a tough matchup for opposing offenses because all four players are both physical and fast. According to Bill Belichick, the Steelers linebackers are an important part of what the team likes to do on defense. "They are a very active group. They are involved in a lot of plays and in a lot of their zone blitzes," Belichick said.
Patriots tight end Christian Fauria agrees with his coach about the effectiveness of the Steelers foursome. "They are very disciplined," Fauria said. "They have great athletes and they play very hard. The Steelers have one of the best front eights in the league in my opinion. I say eight because I'm putting [safety Troy] Polamalu up there as well."
Fauria thinks the key to playing the Steelers is maintaining blocks and not letting the athletic linebackers run free. The veteran tight end said, "Our main thing is to stay on blocks and finish blocks because if you let them off for a second, they are going to make plays."
Haggans and Porter play on the outside and are known for rushing the passer. The combination has recorded four sacks and caused two fumbles in their first two games. Porter gets all the publicity but Haggans is coming into his own as well. Some of the Patriots have referred to the two as "mirror images" of each other. Belichick said despite their reputation as pass rushers, both play the run exceptionally well too. "Both guys are good on the edge against the run and chasing down ball carriers," the Patriots coach said.
Foote and Farrior play the inside but they are just as athletic as their outside counterparts. Foote is the least celebrated of the four but he is a smart player who recorded 78 tackles in his first year as a starter.
Farrior is coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2004 and he has earned the praise of Belichick. At his Thursday press conference, Belichick said, "For an inside linebacker, Farrior is one of the most athletic linebackers in the league. He can run, change direction and accelerate. His movements are similar to that of a safety." Farrior finished with a team-high 11 tackles last week against the Texans.
Back in the '60s, the Rams had a defensive front called "The Fearsome Foursome." Forty years later, the Steelers are unleashing their own fearsome foursome on the NFL. The Steelers linebackers have caused havoc in the first two games of the season so you can bet the Patriots offense will be ready for them Sunday. If the Patriots can keep these four quiet this week, they have a much better chance of walking out of Pittsburgh with a win.
The Steelers new deep threat
After losing Plaxico Burress this offseason to the New York Giants, there was concern that Burress would take the big plays in the Steelers passing game with him. So far this season, that hasn't been the case.
Former college quarterback Antwaan Randle El has stepped up in his third season and provided Roethlisberger with a new deep threat. In the Steelers first game against the Titans, Randle El caught a career-long 63-yard touchdown pass. Last week against the Texans, Randle El struck again with a 54-yard reception.
Over the first two games, Randle El has five receptions for 164 yards and a 35-yards per catch average. Roethlisberger praised his new big-play receiver at his weekly press conference.
"Antwaan has done a great job of making big plays this year," Roethlisberger said on Wednesday. "When I'm throwing it up to him, he is making things happen. He has great ball skills and it's great having a receiver like that who you can throw to."
New year, same problems
After surviving a season where they had so many injuries in the secondary Troy Brown had to play corner, the Patriots thought they were out of the woods this season when it came to the cornerback position. Not so fast. With Randall Gay, Duane Starks, Tyrone Poole and Chad Scott all listed as questionable on the Patriots injury report, it may be time for Brown to put on that blue jersey in practice again.
While Bill Belichick wouldn't say if Brown was practicing at corner, he did say the team is comfortable that he can play there if need be. Belichick admitted on Thursday that with all the injuries, the team is currently in the same predicament at defensive back as they were last season.
"We are basically in the same spot right now as last season, unfortunately," Belichick told the media on Thursday.
Despite being listed as questionable, cornerback Chad Scott said Thursday that he will play Sunday against the Steelers. … The Patriots made a roster move on Wednesday, re-signing defensive tackle Santonio Thomas to the practice squad. Thomas was released by New England Aug. 30. A spot opened up when the Colts signed running backKory Chapman off the Patriots practice squad. Chapman must now remain on the Colts 53-man roster for at least three weeks. … After six false start penalties last Sunday against the Panthers, the Patriots have been getting ready for Pittsburgh this week by blaring music during practice to help prepare them for the noise at Heinz Stadium this Sunday. In the past, Belichick has subjected the players to selections from his personal list of favorites.