A Shootout Would Suit These Steelers

Mike Prisuta says the Steelers are on the verge of their best offensive performance against, yes, a 3-4 zone blitz defense.

DALLAS -- It's a Super Bowl that pits the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense against the league's No. 2 unit in that category, so it ought to be about defense, shouldn't it?

Especially seeing as how the two defensive coordinators, Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers, helped create the defense the current Packers and Steelers have perfected back in 1992 while in the process of comprising Bill Cowher's first coaching staff with the Steelers.

Those were the days, Capers remembered, of the "900-page playbook."

Of the Steelers practicing both the 3-4 and the 4-3 _ hence the need for that 900-page defensive playbook _ while trying to decide in which direction they ultimately wanted to head.

"I was the guy that had to draw the book for training camp and I had to do every defense we did in 4-3 and 3-4," said LeBeau, then the secondary coach under coordinator Capers and the rookie head coach from Crafton.

"I was never so glad to go to camp in my life."

Those were the days of Greg Lloyd practicing at inside linebacker, at least for a couple of days.

"Greg wasn't happy about that," recalled Darren Perry, then a rookie free safety from Penn State and now in charge of the Packers' DBs under Capers and Mike McCarthy, the head coach from Greenfield.

Come Sunday, defense will take center stage like never before in this particular setting.

"This is probably the only Super Bowl ever that players from either team could jump in the (other team's) defensive huddle and understand the terminology and probably run the defense," LeBeau said.

Still, as compelling a storyline as all of that creates it will be offense that ultimately determines the outcome of Super Bowl XLV.

And as high-octane and white-hot as the Packers offense has been this postseason, the Steelers will have what it takes to match Green Bay score for score, and just maybe for one more.

They're different now than they were in September, more diverse, more explosive.

And that has as much to do with the emergence of rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown at wide receiver as it does Ben Roethlisberger's reinstatement from suspension.

"It was going to take them some time," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "I thought Coach (Mike Tomlin) handled them perfectly by not dressing both of them in September. He'd make 'em fight to see who got to dress, the two-dogs-one-bone theory. They've worked their tails off. I told (wide receivers coach) Scottie Montgomery back in September, ‘We got two guys here that are going to have to play for us in December; you hug 'em because I'm gonna dog-cuss 'em and beat the hell out of 'em.

"They've taken to it. They know what they're doing. They've made the plays for us down the stretch and it's let us expand back to a team that can play faster and put more pressure on a defense, especially when you want to blitz, (because of) who's got the ball in his hands, how fast he is and what he can do in space."

Montgomery assesses the Steelers' offensive metamorphosis a little more succinctly.

"We put on a little bit of steam," he said.

And now they're a different team.

"When you take the 14 games Ben's played I think we're fifth (in total offense)," Arians said. "With Ben we're the second-best third-down team in the league."

They're a team that can run the ball more consistently, as mandated, but also put the pedal down when necessary.

They're an offense that's physical but also frenetic.

And that first half in the AFC Championship Game against the Jets was "probably as good as we've played all year," Arians said.

It's become a better offense than the Steelers took to Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII because it's more complete.

"Oh, totally," Arians agreed. "Rashard (Mendenhall) is playing at a level; Willie (Parker) was a great player for us, but he wasn't the receiver Rashard is and as dangerous with the ball as a receiver. We've had more goal-line snaps than I think I've had in 17 years. We've had like 30 goal-line snaps, 13 drives. We've scored on 12 of them. We had a missed assignment in New Orleans, that's the only time we've been stopped on the goal line.

"We haven't thrown it yet."

For the Packers' sake, Capers hopefully saved most of those 900 pages from back in the day.

He's going to have to dial up an answer for all of that come Sunday.


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