Sapp's Comments Hit the Spot

Warren Sapp does old friend a favor, and Dick LeBeau vows to bounce back.

PITTSBURGH – Mike Tomlin's exhortation to reporters last week, when he asked them to "keep talking about how old they are ... you make my job easy" fell on some accommodating ears.

One of Tomlin's old players, Warren Sapp, picked up the Steelers' coach with these comments this week:

"The Pittsburgh Steelers, I have three things: old, slow and it's over," Sapp said in this week's Inside the NFL. Sapp went on to rip James Harrison, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu to help his old coach.

In fact, Sapp also helped the Pittsburgh media. Reporters surged through the locker room Thursday to brazenly ask players – in the name of Sapp (not us!) – whether their performance against the Baltimore Ravens occurred because they're washed up.

"That's not the first time I've heard old and that's not the first time I've heard we're done," said 35-year-old lineman Aaron Smith. "We've been around this thing a few times. I had a coach in high school who said the proof is in the pudding. We'll see."

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was asked about it after practice.

"To be honest with you, they've been saying that for four or five years about our defense," LeBeau said. "It's like the guy that got up and said ‘This could be the last day of my life.' Sooner or later you're going to be right.

"But they ain't right yet," he added. "I wouldn't kick any dirt on us. We'll be back. We'll be back."

It appears that Sapp has indeed motivated the Steelers. Tomlin should thank him personally.

SCHEMATICALLY SPEAKING

LeBeau used few of the big cushions that are part of his trademark three-deep (Cover-3) zones last Sunday. He instead had his corners playing press/man coverage on the Baltimore wide receivers, who combined to catch 4 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.

But the strategy appeared to have opened the field for the Baltimore tight ends and running backs, who caught 13 passes for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"That's one of the disadvantages of bump coverage," said LeBeau. "You lose the vision of that guy (cornerbacks) on runs. But the plus of it is you're not opening up all that area for that outside receiver to just run down there and turn around at 12 yards and catch the ball. Ideally you try to mix the techniques together so they have to keep guessing exactly what you're doing."

Look for LeBeau to get back to his comfort (three-deep) zone very soon.

"There was a game this week where they passed for a thousand yards," he said. "You'd better keep a little bit of cushion."

ROTATE OLD GUYS?

The Steelers have continued shuffling a large number of second-teamers onto the practice field with the first team this week.

At Baltimore, LeBeau used those players to help combat the heat. But the temperature at game time Sunday at Heinz Field is forecast to be a cool 63 degrees. Will the rotations continue?

"Early in the season I think it's imperative that you do that. Yes, we will continue with our rotation," LeBeau said.

Look for Ziggy Hood, Larry Foote, Jason Worilds, William Gay and Cameron Heyward to again rotate with Smith, James Farrior, James Harrison, Bryant McFadden and Brett Keisel as they did last Sunday.

"Age isn't a factor," LeBeau said. "We've always rotated linemen."

STAT OF THE WEEK

The Chicago Bears allowed 28 points to the visiting Tampa Bay Bucs and 166 yards rushing to James Wilder in the 1985 opener. The Bucs went on to finish 2-14. The Bears went on to not only win the Super Bowl, they became a defensive legend.

NOTEBOOK

After one day on the practice squad, tight end Dorin Dickerson was placed on the practice squad/injured list and replaced by Jamie McCoy. A Steelers PR spokesman would clarify only that Dickerson is no longer the team's property.

Jerricho Cotchery missed another practice Thursday with his hamstring injury. Practicing on a limited basis were LG Chris Kemoeatu (knee) and CB Bryant McFadden (hamstring).


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