"Just making sure the plan is intact and we're teaching the right things and we're giving them opportunities to make plays."">
"Just making sure the plan is intact and we're teaching the right things and we're giving them opportunities to make plays."">

Lewis to make changes

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Tim Lewis looked like a guy who had all the answers yesterday, and, no, he hadn't slept at a Holiday Inn Express.<br><br> "I spent the night here," the Steelers defensive coordinator said of the team's practice facility on the South Side. <br><br> "Just making sure the plan is intact and we're teaching the right things and we're giving them opportunities to make plays."

Lewis came up with some answers, too, most of which have to do with putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Steelers have only 13 sacks after seven games and that's unacceptable in Pittsburgh, or what used to be known as 'Blitzburgh.'

By the way, whatever became of 'Blitzburgh'?

"You've got to keep up with the times," Lewis said. "When the other teams change, you'd better change with them otherwise you'll be left in the dust."

The Steelers have led the AFC in sacks the last two seasons, and have had at least 36 sacks every year since Bill Cowher took over as coach in 1992.

But this year, the Steelers are on pace for 30 sacks. Against the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, the Steelers rarely pressured quarterback Marc Bulger and allowed him to pass for 334 yards in the first three quarters of a 33-21 Rams win.

The Rams finished with 359 yards passing on the strength of 11 completions that gained 20 yards or more. After the game, linebacker Joey Porter questioned the lack of blitz calls, and at his Tuesday press conference Cowher wondered whether his coaches had become too tentative. "You've got to be careful you're not more concerned with what you aren't able to do on a side of the ball, and I think you start to get into a very tentative mode from a play-calling standpoint," Cowher said.

Lewis was asked if he's been too tentative in his play-calling.

"Not necessarily," he said. "I can see what his point is. If your players get beat on a play, you have a tendency, I guess, as a coach, that you watch out for that, make a mental note that you're asking too much. So what I do, I try to figure out what it is that puts them in the best position to make a play instead of putting them or the defense in jeopardy. If it is that I've gotten too tentative or too concerned about making sure the guys are in the right positions, then I'll address that.

"He's already done that with the media, and with me. For a coach trying to aspire to become what he is, it's a point well taken."

Lewis doesn't agree with his critics that the defense has fallen off from a year ago, and some of the statistics back him up. The Rams were the first team this season to pass for more than 200 yards on the Steelers. Through seven games last year, four opponents had passed for more than 200 yards on them.

Through seven games last season, the Steelers allowed 342 total yards per game. This season, they are allowing an average of 272 total yards per game.

The biggest fall-off, aside from sacks, is points allowed. Through seven games last season, the Steelers allowed 140 points. This year they've allowed 179 points, but 24 of those can be attributed directly to the offense. The Steelers didn't give up a touchdown on offense last season until the 13th game against the Houston Texans.

The changes this past off-season involved the insertion of a complete nickel package and the use of more cover-2 zone defense.

To beef up the pressure last week, Lewis moved Porter back to rush end in the dime defense to put the natural pass rusher back on the line, and also to keep Kendrell Bell from wearing down during games.

The ploys helped on both counts as Porter had two sacks and Bell played one of his better games, according to Lewis.

This week, after Lewis, secondary coach Willie Robinson and line coach John Mitchell spent the night at the Steelers' practice facility, more changes are forthcoming.

"One of the things that we'll probably need to do is use more pressure," said Lewis, who's facing plenty of pressure himself in a town with a tradition of defensive excellence.

"From a coach's standpoint, I can get enamored with the negative just like most other fans do," Lewis said. "But I have to find a way to get past the frustration and past the negative and continue to work with the guys and encourage them and guide them and teach them how to make those plays because we're getting into position. Now we've got to finish."

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