Plummer a symbol of pass-rushing heyday

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> The last time the Steelers faced Jake Plummer they sacked him a team-record 10 times. Carnell Lake, a safety, had three of them. Jason Gildon was also part of the feeding frenzy. He sacked the rookie once. <p> "Jake was a younger guy then," said Gildon. "We were able to get after him on that day. I don't think his offensive line was as good as it is now and he felt he had to go out and make things happen. We were able to take advantage of him maybe trying to do too much."

But it didn't stop Plummer from enjoying his best starting performance, statistically, of the 1997 season. He had a passer rating of 119 and had the Arizona Cardinals in position to win, but the Steelers prevailed in overtime, 26-20.

Still, 10 sacks. Whatever happened to those days?

The Steelers have only nine sacks through five games this season, and neither Gildon nor his bookend and partner in pass-rushing crime, Joey Porter, seem concerned.

"Right now we have to just take care of some of the things that have been plaguing us the last five weeks, the little things," said Gildon. "I think we're definitely a good enough defense to make that happen again but right now we have to take care of the little things."

Gildon didn't go into detail. Porter was asked the same question.

"If we had nine sacks and were 5-0, you wouldn't be asking me that question," he said. "I found out today that we're still ranked pretty high on defense, but it doesn't seem like that because every time I look up, we're losing. If we're winning and you ask me something like that, I'd have something better to tell you. We've got to find a way to get some Ws in the other column." Porter may not believe there's a correlation between the lack of sacks and the lack of wins, but he makes a valid point about the Steelers' No. 1 defensive ranking not helping in the wins column, either.

"Yeah, we're doing something right, but there's also something else we're not doing right, keeping people out of the end zone," Porter said. "That's how the game is scored in points. We've got to keep them out of the end zone and give our team a better chance to win."

The Steelers are first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed. They are 24th in points allowed. They are dead last in red-zone defense. More importantly, they are 2-3 and they are miffed, particularly these outside linebackers who've made a career out of terrorizing quarterbacks. This year, Porter and Gildon each have one sack. Since each became a starter, each has averaged 9.5 sacks per season. Porter hinted at frustration with the coaching staff when he said "take off these handcuffs" into an ESPN microphone while coming off the field Sunday night. He said, though, that he was criticizing the Browns' play calling, not his coach's.

"No. I play the defense that is called," Porter said. "It doesn't matter what defense is called, it's up to everyone to go out there and stop them from making offensive plays. That's the scheme, period. You have to go out there and do what you're asked to do. I don't go out there and complain about a defensive play. I don't have any defenses for me. Nobody has a certain defense. You're either rushing or you're dropping. Game, set, match. That's what you do." Is he dropping more than rushing?

"I'm doing what the defense asks me," Porter said. "I don't keep track or a chart of how many times I rushed or how many times I dropped. He calls it; I haul it. It's as simple as that." Gildon is two sacks away from becoming the franchise's all-time leader. At this rate, he'll do so in Week 15, but he's not frustrated either.

"I'm not. I've been playing long enough that I realize it's a long season," Gildon said. "As long as you keep playing and keep preparing every week you're going to have an opportunity to go out and maybe have a game like that."

Those 10-sack days seem so far away. They've had four of them, the last of which occurred against Tampa Bay on Oct. 21, 2001. Right now, defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen leads the Steelers with three sacks.

"Lucky. Just lucky," von Oelhoffen said. "Look, they've been max-protecting against us all year. Half the time they're passing the ball, they're max-protecting. That's what it comes down to. When they're not max-protecting we're going to get pressure. I think people are afraid of the speed we've got, so even if we're blitzing or not they're going to max protect."

Are teams dictating to the Steelers when they should blitz?

"I can't comment on that, but Tim Couch got hit, I think, 11 times and six of those times he completed the ball for a twenty-some yard average," von Oelhoffen said. "He was putting it on the money with guys on his legs.

"There's no panic. That's football."

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