Something has been (largely) lost in the clutter of the Pittsburgh Steelers first 0-3 start since ’00.
The poor play of the offensive line, absence of a running game, Todd Haley’s supposed incompetence, cut blocking, regressing of Ben Roethlisberger and prolific turnovers have all been discussed ad nausea. One point has receive comparatively less discussion:
- Opposing teams can now run against the Steelers.
Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense is founded on stopping the run. The idea is to limit damage on 1st and second downs and force the defense into 3rd and 7 or better. This then allows LeBeau to bring pressure from odd angles via the Zone Blitz.
No opposing running back has yet dominated the Steelers.
- But the Steelers have not played anyone like Adrian Peterson.
In an age where quarterbacks drive success in the NFL to an unprecedented extent, Adrian Peterson has made himself into a house hold word the way Emmitt Smith and Jerome Bettis once did.
The apparent decline of the Steelers run defense could have any number of causes.
- Steve McLendon could simply not be the run stopper that Casey Hampton was
- Likewise, the Steelers can’t be quite as strong with Kion Wilson and Vince Williams playing where James Farrior once dominated and Larry Foote played ably
- LeBeau’s adjustments to get more pass pressure out of ends Brett Keisel, Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood could also be hurting the running game
Whatever the cause is, LeBeau had better have something up his sleeve. With Christian Ponder out and Matt Cassel starting, the Vikings will certainly look to lean on Peterson.
Which makes sense, because the man is a beast.
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