Steelers' D From Other Side of the Line

Mike Prisuta rounded up some of the top NFL O-line coaches at the Joe Moore Camp and asked them about attacking the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Peter King had his quarterback roundtable a few years back in fabulous Las Vegas. I had offensive line coaches last weekend at West Allegheny High School.

And what I had wasn't so much a "roundtable" as it was three O-line guys discussing similar subjects independently of one another.

Still, when the subjects involve the Steelers' defense, and those doing the discussing are Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Paul Dunn, New York Football Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, some pretty compelling stuff results.

Here's what those three had to say regarding the Steelers' defense during a break in the Joe Moore O-Line Camp on Sunday at West A:

What jumps out at you when evaluating and trying to attack the Steelers?

Grimm: "The thing that jumps out is just the experience factor. They have a lot of guys on that side of the ball that have been in that defense for a long time. And the biggest thing that's facing a lot of NFL teams right now, including us, is this unknown factor with any free agents we want to bring in, any rookies that we have. And some teams are going to be that much further ahead. That group can walk out on the field right now and in two days probably run that same defense that they ran all through the playoffs. That's the experience they have on that side.

"I think everybody's going to be affected (by the lockout) but some teams are going to be affected a lot more. You take teams like the Indianapolis Colts with Peyton (Manning), (Tom) Brady up at New England, those guys are going to come in and that system's going to roll, they're been in it. But teams that have changed coaching staffs, teams that are looking for young players to come in, we're going to struggle a little bit to get it rolling."

Dunn: "You look at the Steelers' defense and you think age and experience. Their defensive football team has a little bit of age on it but they haven't lost a step, that's the amazing thing that we've seen. Here you are facing these guys and its like 13 years, 14 years, 12 years, 11 years experience. And when you've been doing it that long, and a lot of them in the same system, that, I think, is probably what makes them tougher than any team in football from a defensive standpoint. They're so well-coached and so experienced you know you're going to get their best shot."

What must you accomplish first and foremost against the Steelers defense?

Flaherty: "Well, you gotta try to run the ball. And they're not easy to run the ball against. Everybody in the league tries to run the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers because you have to do that to win the game, that's first and foremost. Anytime that we go to play the Pittsburgh Steelers, as an offensive line coach I'm trying to find ways we can even get 3 yards. And we'd like to get 4-plus yards per carry, but just to get a crack in that defense is the biggest challenge that we have."

Is it the unpredictability of a Dick LeBeau defense or the players executing it that's the bigger factor in the Steelers' success?

Flaherty: "It's a combination, it really is. There's nobody better that I've had to go against in terms of blocking a defense than the Dick LeBeau defense. He has variations and he has some complicated blitzes and pressures. But the most important thing is his defense is sound, the techniques and fundamentals of the defensive ends, the linebackers, of the secondary, they're very sound. And then he will give you some complicated things just to keep you off-balance in terms of what he presents to the offenses. But the biggest thing with the Dick LeBeau defense and the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is they're a sound, tough, hard-nosed defense that likes to play for that coach."

Dunn: "I don't think it's surprising at all. You know from Dick you're going to get certain things, and they're gonna stay consistent. And you'll see it from the first game in the beginning of the season to the last game. It's just a matter of execution and what you feel like your personnel and your strengths, how they will match up against what you anticipate, what you know you're going to get."

Are the Packers and Steelers the conference favorites heading into 2011 based on their status as finalists in 2010?

Flaherty: "I think it re-shuffles, I really do. The reason is you have everybody pointing to getting into the playoffs and then the Super Bowl. All you gotta do is get into the playoffs and anything can happen. Obviously Aaron Rodgers got hot at that right time, he was phenomenal. We played them at the end of the year and he was absolutely phenomenal. Pittsburgh is as consistent a football team as you've had in the last decade, so they're always going to be challenging for the AFC. But I really believe most teams are going to be in the thick of things once this thing gets going."

Grimm: "I'm going to go with the known, that it's been a long time since anybody repeated. So I'm going to say it's going to be two new teams this year. But I think those two are going to be up there. You're going to have to beat those two teams to get there."

Dunn: "Aaron Rodgers was just on fire. I've never seen a quarterback in all my life that was so accurate and precise in the last four or five games of the season than him. So, tribute to them, we take our hat off to them, they deserve it. It'll be interesting to see how that falls out."

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