Berry could juice up Steelers pass rush

It's no secret the Steelers need to upgrade their anemic pass rush from a year ago. <br><br> That will be new defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's biggest offseason task, finding a way to produce more sacks with the hand he's been dealt.

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 in 2000.

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 reasonable contract.

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 he 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 field.

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