Poking the Bear

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Mike Tomlin at his weekly press conference;

“They’re the best in the world right now. Needless to say it’s cause for concern. I’m not ready to put us in the conversation with the Baltimore Ravens defense. We aren’t close in terms of what they are doing-maybe statistically, but not the way the’re generating splash plays.”

In terms of AFC North divisional pride, it’s always been the Ravens defense and the Steelers defense as to who were the roughest, toughest hombres. Both defenses take pride in beating up their oppnents and walking off with the proverbial candy.

Taking the ball away from the opposing offense is like taking pelts. Nail’em to a wall, make a throw rug out of them, whatever you want because you are the bad boy on the block who can do whatever you want.

The message coming from Coach Mike to his defense is that if you are really who you think you are and seek to be on a weekly basis, then you need some signature stops and takeaways. You need more than mere stats to be King Kong.

A year after posting 35 takeaways in 2010, the Steelers defense has just three. The drought needs to end.

The fly in the ointment is that maybe three-fourths of the most dynamic wrecking crew in the NFL may be parked on the sidelines for this gi-normous clash of titans come sunday night. And the lone holdover (Lawrence Timmons) has been playing out of position.

What’s interesting is the approach Mike Tomlin spoke of yesterday, that all the answers are in-house. That the answer may be in the defensive line, and it may be a little more complex than just DE Brett Keisel being a “Two-planker” (stand up guy) versus a “Knuckle-dragger” (in a three-point stance).

That variations on the drawing board could make the 3-4 look like a 4-2, or 4-3, or a 3-3 stack which starts to make this weeks planning schemes much more complex to an opposing offensive line that’s shown cracks in the armor in trying to protect the castle.

Think about it. Dick LeBeau got away from playing predominant zone behind his blitz scheme against the Patriots and ran a lot of man coverage. If Coach LeBeau is that willing to break from his norm, what might happen if a lack of bodies dictate opening up the playbook to outside the box think-er-rating?

The possibilities of skullduggery and stra-tee-gery appear endless.

And it all starts by “Poking the Bear” a little.