Tunch Ilkin, X's & O's Week 8 - Pre-Game Rams

<b>George Von Benko</b>: Tunch Ilkin, it has been about a week since we talked, the bye week against the St. Louis Rams who are coming into town. In talking to a lot of the players and some of the coaching staff, the bye week probably fell at a good time. <br><br> <b>Tunch Ilkin</b>: I've never heard somebody say, George, that the bye week is at a bad time. <br><br> <b>GVB</b>: I've heard them say that is too early some times.


Tunch talks about the keys of the game to beat the Rams

Transcript: TI: Whenever you go into that we week you hear guys going, "We've got guys banged up." Hey, it's the National Football League. You've always got guys banged up. You really determine if the bye came at a good time based upon whether you win coming off the bye.

GVB: Looking back at the Denver game just briefly, there were some positives that I think the team took out of it. It was a tough loss.

TI: I think the fact that they were in a position to win, in a stadium that is very difficult to win in and I guess a very good football team in the Denver Broncos, that when you slice it up that way that you are still right there at the end of the game with a chance to make a play and send it into overtime, that is a positive. Having said that, moral victories do not count in the won/loss column. Because of that, you are still there at 2 and 4. And now you don't really have that margin for error. It is not enough to play well, you have to win football games.

GVB: St. Louis coming into town and most of the focus this week at Steeler camp has been what has been going on with the offensive line. Faneca is moving to the outside and Keydrick Vincent is going to start, they picked up Barrett Brooks, and, of course, the moving of Jerome Bettis back into the starting lineup. As you look at that overall situation, your thoughts.

TI: Let me first answer that question by looking at the St. Louis Rams' defense. When you look at the Rams defense, they are built on speed, athleticism, and hustle. Lovie Smith, their defensive coordinator, preaches 11 guys flying to the ball. As a matter of fact, they have drills at the beginning of every practice that they call pursuit drills. Lovie wants to see guys hustling. If you are watching film of a game and he sees a guy speed up to make a play, he knows that they are not playing wide open. Because of the way their defense is designed, they're not as big and strong as some. What they have had trouble in the past is offenses that have hammered at them, run right at them. When you have got Jerome starting and you've got Alan playing left tackle, who is a mauler, and Keydrick Vincent at left guard who is a mauler, you have a very favorable match up against that kind of defense. Because of the Rams offense, you want to play ball control. You play ball control against these guys because they are very athletic. You want to hammer them. There's no better hammer at running back than Jerome Bettis.

GVB: You and I have been wondering when Jerome has been going to appear for a couple of weeks now with the problems with the running game. This is not to point fingers at Amos Zereoue, but a stat that just caught my eye the other day, 84 carries this year and 30% of them have been for no gain or lost yardage. That's not necessarily all Amos' fault, but that catches your attention.

TI: The thing about Amos is that he's a different kind of runner. He dances a lot. Sometimes in the hole he gives ground to make ground, but it hasn't worked. You can't blame it all on him, but you blame some on the offensive line. Having said that, you've got a running back in Jerome Bettis that lends itself to ‘let's get some positive yardage.' Even if it is 2-yards or a yard and one half or three yards, he's not going to lose ground. As an offensive lineman, when you're blocking with Jerome in the backfield you better get moving or I'm going to get a facemask right in the small of my back. If there's no hole there, Jerome's going to create one.

GVB: Let's turn our attention to the Rams offense. It's a high-powered offense, when you look at it. Marc Bulger is having a tremendous season and a lot of rhythm with what they are doing with their passing game. It's going to be a stiff challenge for the Steelers defense.

TI: What I think that the Steelers are going to need to do is, St. Louis does so many things offensively, they need to communicate well to one another and they've to mix up their coverages and blitzes because what Bulger likes to do, as you said, is to run the rhythm offense. So, he gets rid of that ball. When they do a three-step drop, one… two… three feet… as soon as the foot hits the ground the ball is coming out of there. When they do a five-step drop, the same thing. Bulger does not spend a lot of time looking downfield for receivers. He knows where his guys are going to be. He has a great grasp of this offense. He gets rid of the ball to the spot, at the point, when needed. What you have to do to disrupt this rhythm is to jam the receivers. If you jam the receivers that means your corners have to come up and play press-coverage. The bad part about that is that they run so many crossing routes, as I watch film, I've actually seen defensive backs pick each other because they're following the receiver. You've got to mix it up. When you play zone, I think you have to play a little bit more aggressive zone against these guys. The other thing you have to do is you have to push the pocket. Bulger has kind of a funny release at times. He'll throw sidearm or three-quarters. You can knock some of his balls down. So, it is really going to be incumbent upon their inside guys, Casey Hampton, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, and Aaron Smith, to get a good push up the middle. I think this would be a good week to bring Kendrell inside more because he brings that push and you can disrupt Bulger's rhythm by getting guys in his face.

GVB: Finally, let's boil it down to keys to victory as you see it for Pittsburgh. A lot of the guys, particularly Jerome, said that they've had a habit of jumping on teams and that makes you change what you want to do. The Steelers can't afford to get off to a shaky start.

TI: No. When you play against an offense with that many weapons, you want to keep them on the sidelines. Ball-control is huge today. You've got to possess the ball, but the other thing is that they're going to score touchdowns. You can't drive the length of the field and get into the red zone and come away with three. The Rams will not allow you to do that. You have to have that balance of patience, aggressiveness, and not allowing the scoreboard to take you out of what you do best. I think one of the keys for the Steelers is for the offensive line to just manhandle that Rams defense and really keep the chains moving.

GVB: Let's get to our fan question this week and it comes from ChipTheSteelerFan: "Is Faneca playing left tackle instead of right tackle because he is not used to the footwork involved on the right side? Faneca, who is a better run blocker, seems to be a perfect right side guy. Marvel is more of a finesse guy, so I see him as the better LT, protecting Tommy's blindside."

TI: Well Chip, I'll tell you this. Actually, he always plays out of a left-handed stance so it makes more sense to go from left guard to left tackle than going from left guard to right tackle would be much more difficult. The switch from guard to tackle is a difficult one. From what I saw the first week of Faneca at left tackle the transition in pass blocking was not the problem. The transition was the run blocking because of the angles. The angles when you're going play-side, you're going to have to reach the defensive ends because they are going to play wider, and angles cutting the play off of backside because you have a little more movement in there. I just think that it is a matter of him learning the position and learning the nuances of offensive tackle much more than if he's better at right tackle or left tackle. I think he's a natural lefthander.

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