What happened to Blitzburgh?

From the notebook of a sportswriter who wants to credit the St. Louis Rams because it's easy to lose perspective on a team, such as the 2-5 Steelers, in the throes of a four-game losing streak:

  • Well, this statistic isn't going to help that cause. The Rams had 11 plays of 20 yards or longer. In their six previous games, the 5-2 Rams had only 20 such plays.

  • Because they practice against it every day, the Rams laugh at Cover 2, particularly the generic brand of Cover 2 thrown together this season by the built-to-stop-the-run Steelers.

  • What we know about Chad Scott and Dewayne Washington is they are physical cornerbacks who can tackle. Well how about putting them on the line to rough up receivers? Add much blitzing. And what the hell ever became of 'Blitzburgh'?

  • Lined up with two deep safeties and two corners playing 8-10 yards off the receiver, the Steelers are basically playing a 4-deep zone. Rush three and there are eight backpedaling players, players who were drafted to attack quarterbacks or stop the run.

  • The experts keep telling me I'm making this stuff up, that it's a gross generalization, and maybe they're right because I really only focus on third-down coverages. But aren't third downs supposed to be the key to defense? That's when it matters; that's when I scribble this stuff down; that's what constitutes "just a fraction" of the defensive play calls.

  • When forced to pick the poison of a picked-up blitz or a zone flooded with miscast defenders, I'll take the picked-up blitz every time. At least the quarterback feels more bodies coming at him and will have to hurry his throw.

  • A 15-yard gain is tough to accept, but anything's better than a 40-yard gain on third-and-23.

  • The lead of the game grades in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked "Why again did the Pitt Panthers think (Marc) Bulger wasn't a Division I quarterback?" And yes, Pitt deserves slammed over the head for its non-recruitment of a hometown kid, but don't the Steelers deserve it also?

  • To go over this one more - and certainly not the last - time, the Steelers drafted Tee Martin in the fifth round of the 2000 draft and allowed Bulger, who passed for 740 yards, 10 touchdowns and directed his West Virginia team to 102 points in his last two games against Pitt, to pass into the sixth round.

  • Sure, everybody in the NFL passed on Bulger after the New Orleans Saints cut him, but that's no excuse for a team seeking a developmental quarterback. No, his arm isn't that strong, but the strong-armed Martin was also the scatter-shot Martin. Yes, he won a national championship at Tennessee - beating my bets all along the way - but he was surrounded by 30 players who would become drafted by the NFL. Among them were six first-rounders, one of whom the NFL's runaway rushing leader.

  • Anyone could've screwed the pick up, and most did, but it's important because the Steelers need to find another developmental project at QB, and the key at this position is accuracy and craftiness. Bulger had it coming out.

  • Too bad scouts don't have more "fan" in them.

  • That said, don't expect the Steelers to draft a quarterback next April. Obviously, there are other holes. Put some talent around the accurate and crafty Tommy Maddox, or the equally-so-and-younger Charlie Batch, and this team can win - soon.

  • Anyone who's paid attention to the NFL knows it doesn't take long to turn a team around, as long as a decent core is in place. With Alan Faneca, Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Kendrell Bell, Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu, that core is in place. The finishing touches won't take as long as some are reporting.

  • Faneca did a great job at LT, the first Grant Wistrom sack of the season notwithstanding. My gut tells me Marvel Smith should play RT upon his return from injury.

  • RG Kendall Simmons played much better today and deserves to hold off the Chukky Okobi-Jeff Hartings change for now. Keydrick Vincent had his low points, but deserves more playing time at LG.

  • Clark Haggans must realize the brass is looking at him right now and deciding whether he deserves a contract that will push Jason Gildon out the door. Haggans needs to make more happen during his brief opportunities at LOLB.

  • Polamalu's missed interception that turned into a touchdown further frustrated fans, but he certainly flashed speed in reaching the pylon to jump in front of Dane Looker. The blur was probably more noticeable at the stadium that it was on TV. Polamalu also showed up a couple other times. He's starting to grow on me.

  • Another Steelers core member should be Rams defensive end Leonard Little, who flashed safety speed in running down Antwaan Randle El from behind to end a 32-yard reverse. In the third round of the 1998 draft, the Rams traded up ahead of the Steelers, who wanted Little and had let it leak. After the Rams took Little, the Steelers took Chris Conrad.

  • The couldas and shouldas aren't working right now, I understand that, but the Steelers mustn't be doomed by repeated history.

  • Another notable quote from the St. Louis P-D is "We took over their crib!" from Tyoka Jackson. Um, Tyoka, we understand a Rams win on the road is cause for great celebration, but the Steelers are 1-3 at home this season, 6-5-1 over the last two seasons. As chairman Dan Rooney had feared upon opening the open-ended stadium, it's not such a hostile environment for visitors.

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