Scouting the Steelers: The Defense

In a three-part series, we break down the Dolphins' next opponent: the Pittsburgh Steelers. In this installment, we take an in-depth look at the Steelers defense.

The Steelers have been known for their great defense for many, many years, pretty much from the time Dick LeBeau became the defensive coordinator in the 1990s.

LeBeau left for a stint as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, but he returned to Pittsburgh and the Steelers have been great on defense since.

LeBeau is the architect of the "Blitzburgh" defense, a 3-4 system that is ultra-aggressive.

Year in and year out, you can count on the Steelers being among the toughest teams to run again, and that's the case this season. Pittsburgh is ranked No. 1 in the league in run defense, as well as total defense, this season.

The key to the run defense might be nose tackle Casey Hampton, a first-round pick in 1998.

But there's more to it than that. Aaron Smith is a tremendous 3-4 defensive end, strong safety Troy Polamalu is active in every phase of the game, and the linebackers make plays all over the field.

That group of linebackers is the best in the league. It starts with James Harrison and also includes LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons.

The secondary isn't that well known, but Polamalu is a star. He's probably the best safety in the game right now, with Ed Reed having not played this season as he recovers from a neck injury.

Polamalu does everything for the Steelers defense. He'll blitz, he's tremendous in coverage and he'll even jump over the top of the line of scrimmage to meet a ball carrier in short-yardage situations.

The Dolphins clearly have a tough task in trying to score a lot of points against the Steelers, who haven't allowed more than 17 points in any game this season.

It would be surprising if the Dolphins have much success running the ball, so it will be up to Chad Henne to have a big game through the air.

For that to happen, the Dolphins have to protect him, mostly from Harrison and Woodley.

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