On The Black Side
A Steelers blog honoring the black left side of the Steelers' helmet - By Neal Coolong
On the Black Side is so excited about Sunday night's game, we bugged AOL Fanhouse Steelers writer JJ Cooper until he granted us an email exchange.

Highlighted in this OTBS and JJ discussed the Steelers' pass rush and did some breaking down of Pittsburgh's offensive line.

OTBS: Willie Parker named AFC Offensive Player of the Week! It was great to see that spin move he added, but after watching the game again, it looked to me more of an offensive line game than a Willie Parker game. He had a lot of space in which to be able to spin, especially behind Marvel Smith and Chris Kemoeatu on the left side. You're an offensive line aficianado, what did you think of their performance up front?

JJ: I'm on vacation, so I haven't had a chance to do my usual full o-line breakdown yet, but from watching it live, I was impressed. The Steelers took advantage of Mario Williams tendency to take an outside loop on his speed rush and ran Willie that way, letting Marvel Smith simply use Williams' momentum against him. Chris Kemoeatu had a screwup it looked like on one play for a sack, and there was the on other sack that could be credited partly to Williams' being a pass rushing stud, but overall, it was a very solid effort. Justin Hartwig looked very solid (although he'll get a much tougher test this week against Shaun Rogers), and the right side of the line looked a tick above adequate, which is outstanding.

I talked about the o-line, but I want to know what you thought about the defense. Can we get close to that kind of pressure every week?

I'm still waiting to see the highly-touted Alex Gibbs save Houston's offense. I mean, they put him with offensive line coach Kyle Shanahan, they can't produce a product that has more holes than a Chris Henry alibi, right?


The massive disruption caused by the Steelers was both by design and by ability. The part I loved was how well Lawrence Timmons and Troy Polamalu played in space. Timmons can cover a ridiculous amount of ground, and having two Troys on the field is downright frightening.
I think they'll pressure the passer consistently, but they'll get the benefits of that pressure even when the passer releases the ball - something they didn't have last year. Short checkdown options should be terrified, because 43 and 94 are going to knock then out if/when they catch the ball.

What I'm really excited for on Sunday, though, is to see Timmons in coverage. We all saw two years ago how much Browns TE Kellen Winslow enjoyed James Farrior D-ing him up (cheap shot in the back on Farrior at the end of the game). Timmons is twice as quick and fast as Farrior, and if Timmons is locked on him, and is the pass defender the Steelers say he is, it'll make for some good highlights.

Browns SS Sean Jones is out for a while, are the Steelers looking to attack their safeties early and often? While Cleveland has good offensive playmakers, their secondary is unholy thin. I think the Steelers have the defensive ability to let their offense take a few risks down the field, probably even able to land a few haymakers square on Cleveland's jaw.

Think of it like their game plan against Baltimore on Monday Night last year. Baltimore's starting corners were out, and knowing the Ravens' offense wasn't going to make them pay much if they turned the ball over, they stretched the field, and provided perhaps the most one-sided win over the Ravens they've ever had.

Whaddya think? Attack them vertically? Or will Willie just run all over them?

JJ: We didn't see much from Santonio Holmes last week, partly because the Texans seemed to focus on taking him out of the gameplan (which opened up things for Hines Ward and Heath Miller). I like the idea of starting out by gashing the Browns with the passing game, then turning it over to Parker/Mendenhall at the point where the Browns are overly worried about the passing game.

Of course, that depends somewhat on Ben's injury not being worse than they make it out to be.

I will disagree with you on one point thought. Timmons was taken advantage of one on one in coverage some during the preseason. I'd rather see the Steelers put Polamalu and Ike Taylor on Winslow (at different times). Winslow and Braylon Edwards are the two guys the Steelers have to worry about, and I don't think Winslow can be consistently covered by a LB.

So the Steelers covered kicks successfully for one week, do you think they can do it again?

OTBS: Maybe I'm jumping the gun on Timmons...if you didn't stop me, I'd start suggesting he put a hand on the ground and rush the passer like J-Peezy used to do.

I wrote about the kick coverage in my match-ups column for Steel City Insider. I don't recall many times where I felt truly confident in their ability to get down field and stop the guy with the ball, but Week 1 was one of them. Andre Davis is one of the best around, so obviously that was huge.

Josh Cribbs, though...even with him coming off of a high ankle sprain, we're still hurting from the 200 yards and TD he put on us last year. He nearly single-handedly won that game for Cleveland. They had 164 yards of offense that game, and two of Derek Anderson's TD passes came on drives of a combined 20 yards - field position is critical.

This game is going to largely hinge on Pittsburgh's ability to mark Cribbs, assuming he's going to play (as of Friday afternoon, he was). Do I think they can do it? I certainly do.

But I've been a Steelers fan for way too long to feel completely solid in our kick coverage.



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