And that's where the problem will arise because the majority of the pressure and sacks in the Steelers defense comes from the two outside linebackers.
Joey Porter is a proven pass rusher, but had just five sacks last
season, his lowest total since becoming a starter. Certainly his
preseason shooting had something to do with that, but the Steelers
need Porter to double that production in 2004.
On the other side, linebacker Jason Gildon produced just six sacks
and often got no pressure whatsoever on the opposing quarterback.
Gildon will be released during this offseason.
But what do the Steelers do to replace him?
Last year's second-round pick Alonzo Jackson has the early inside
track, but was deep inside head coach Bill Cowher's dog house last
season, dressing for just a couple of games. And the team's primary
backup at outside linebacker the past few seasons, Clark Haggans, is
an unrestricted free agent.
The Steelers would like to bring Haggans back because he knows the
defense, but perhaps a bolder move is in order.
The Steelers need a player who can get to the quarterback, someone
in the Kevin Greene mold.
And fortunately for them, there is a player out there on the free agent
market who fits that description.
Denver's Bert Berry is a 6-3, 250-pound former college linebacker
who was moved to end to take advantage of his pass rushing skills,
much the same way the Rams moved Greene from linebacker to end
in a misguided attempt to take advantage of his skills.
While the move to end didn't work for Greene, it did for Berry, as he
posted 18 sacks in the past two seasons, including 11.5 in 2003.
Originally drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1997, Berry was misused
and after three non-descript seasons, he found himself out of football
But the Broncos, looking for a situational pass rusher, signed Berry in
2001, resurrecting his career.
The six-year pro feels like he owes Denver some loyalty, but with the
Broncos already up against the cap and looking to upgrade their
pathetic secondary, they likely won't be able to afford him, even at a
When LeBeau had Greene as a member of his defense in 1995, he
allowed the linebacker free reign to rush the passer 80 percent of the
time, given Greene's lack of coverage skills.
Given that he hasn't been asked to drop into coverage much in the past
few seasons, it's likely that's not Berry's strong suit, either. But what
can do is exactly what the Steelers need.
And when you add into the equation Berry's three forced fumbles last
season - another missing ingredient of the Steelers defense - you have
a player the Steelers should be quite interested in acquiring.
Even if by some miracle Jackson were to win the starting job from
Berry, Berry could still serve as a situational pass rusher. On a team
that produced just 35 sacks last season, a player with Bertrand's
proven ability to get to the quarterback would find a way to get onto the
Berry could juice up Steelers pass rush
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