Bring da noise

<b> PITTSBURGH -</b> Imagine trying to do a highly-skilled job that requires total effort and concentration.<br><br> Now visualize trying to do that job with a 250-pound man trying to break your neck over and over and over again.<br><br> Finally, picture trying to do that surrounded by a thousands of people who want to see you fail and are so loud that you can't hear the guy standing next to you calling out at the top of his lungs.

That is the situation the Steelers will face Sunday when they travel to Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium to face the Chiefs.

Long considered one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL because of it's bowl-like shape and vociferous crowds of nearly 80,000, Arrowhead Stadium is as much a factor when playing the Chiefs at home as any player on the field. "Outdoors, Kansas City is one of the loudest that I've ever played in," said Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox. "The old Kingdome (in Seattle) was pretty loud inside, but once you get to a certain level, they're all loud. Last year in Tennessee was pretty loud and once you reach a certain level, it really can't get any louder."

Because of that noise and the explosiveness of the Kansas City offense, the Steelers feel it is imperative that they get their running game going this week.

Despite giving up just two sacks and providing Maddox with plenty of time to throw, the team's offensive line provided few rushing lanes for its running backs. The Steelers gained just 88 yards on 34 attempts in last Sunday's 34-15 win over Baltimore, an average of just 2.6 yards per carry.

"You need to run the ball well every week, but it's extra important this week," said Steelers right tackle Todd Fordham. "You never want to be in third-and-longs, but if you get yourself into third and long at Arrowhead, that crowd can make it very difficult on you."

According to a study a few years ago by the Audiology Center in Topeka, Kan., decibel levels at Arrowhead can reach 120, about 600 times that of a normal conversation. By comparison, the decibel levels at a rock concert or those produced by a chainsaw are around 110.

"It's loud as hell there and it can be a problem if we don't stay focused," said Steelers left tackle Marvel Smith. "We have to do our best to take their crowd out of the game."

They were able to do that in their last trip to Kansas City two seasons ago. The Steelers jumped out to a 20-2 lead and held on for a 20-17 victory. "You definitely want to go in there and take the crowd out of the game," said wide receiver Plaxico Burress. "If you get those people up and jumping around, man, they can get pretty rough with the players. I played down there two years ago and we were down on the 2-yard line and you couldn't hear nothing. They were hollering, man, and I haven't heard a crowd louder than that in all my life."

Shutting down the Kansas City's potent offense will help, too. "Usually, the crowd is pretty quiet when we're on the field," noted defensive end Aaron Smith. "The only time the crowd really gets loud when we're on the field is if we've done something bad."

The Steelers worked Thursday and will work today with loudspeakers during practice to simulate the noise levels at Arrowhead Stadium, something they have done for several years when they are scheduled to visit loud stadiums. That will give the team's offensive line and receivers a chance to work on picking up Maddox's silent snap count. It will be especially beneficial to Smith and Fordham, who face tough pass rushers this week in defensive ends Vonnie Holiday and Eric Hicks.

Holiday, who will be matched up with Smith, had three sacks last week in Kansas City's 27-14 win over San Diego, while Hicks, who had 14 sacks in 2000 and nine last season, led the Chiefs with nine tackles against the Chargers.

"They've got two very good ends," said Fordham. "So it's going to be on us to keep them out of the backfield. The noise isn't such a problem for the interior line as it is for the tackles, so it's just all about communication."

Dale Lolley
Courtesy of the Washington Observer-Reporter

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