Notebook: Cracking 3-5-3 Steelers' key

The winner of the last 10 Steelers-Ravens games rushed for more rushing yards than the loser, and last season Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan drew up a defense he hopes will ensure the winner of the next 10.

With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of last year's second game, Ryan concocted a 3-5-3 defense designed for the Pittsburgh Steelers' two-back, two-tight end package. He called it the "Steelers defense" and it limited the Steelers to 70 yards rushing that day for a 2.9-per-carry clip.

The fifth linebacker is 270-pound lineman Jarrett Johnson, but the key to the defense is another 270-pound linebacker, Adalius Thomas, who plays strong safety in the alignment.

"He plays a lot faster than somebody his size normally would," said Steelers left tackle Marvel Smith.

Smith was asked who lines up in front of him.

"Everybody rotates," he said. "It's not like there's one guy over there at all. You'd rather have one guy to go against, but it really doesn't make a difference. Whoever's over there, you've got to block him."

"They're going to move the linemen around," said guard Alan Faneca. "They're going to shift those linebackers. They're going to move a little guy in the box. They're going to test your ability to count them out and figure out who you got."

Ryan, the son of legendary defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, was asked by a Baltimore reporter whether he intends to use his "Steelers defense" again today.

"I don't know," he said. "They're going to have to wait and find out I guess. There's probably a pretty good chance of it."


The Steelers used their no-huddle attack early in the fourth quarter last Sunday and the result was 21 points in three possessions.

Roethlisberger was asked this week about using it more often, but he wasn't enthusiastic.

"The two-minute no-huddle there at the end isn't as tough as doing the no-huddle offense that we used in other parts of the game," he said. "I have to make the calls and the receivers have to hear the words, the numbers. With the two-minute, I just have to use hand signals."

Why not use hand signals in the no-huddle?

"Because there are too many plays," he said.


Santonio Holmes of the Steelers was named NFL Rookie of the Week after catching five passes for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Browns. His 20-yard touchdown catch followed his 21-yard reception on third-and-20.

Holmes also converted a third-and-six on the game-winning drive with an eight-yard catch. It was Holmes's 29th catch this season, the most by a rookie in the AFC. In the NFC, only two rookie receivers – Marques Colston (54) and Greg Jennings (30) – have more catches. Holmes was asked if the numbers surprise him.

"In a way it does since I didn't expect to be a starter right now and to just play my role," he said. "It's just the opportunities that I presented for myself, the chances that I've taken in practice to make myself better, working with Hines [Ward], working with Ben, trying to get better every week, every day, and coach saw a lot more potential in me and gave me the opportunity."

Holmes's 15.7 yards per catch ranks second on the Steelers to Nate Washington's 16.8. Both players have an opportunity to add to those numbers today against a Baltimore defense that's last in the NFL in allowing 13.4 yards per catch.


Pro Football Weekly released its top 20 teams of all-time and three Steelers teams made the list. The 1974 Steelers rank 18th on the strength, according to PFW, of its run defense; the 1975 team ranks fourth on the strength of its overall defense (four Hall of Famers); and the 1978 team ranks second due to the emergence of its offense (five Hall of Famers).

The 1989 San Francisco 49ers are judged to have been the greatest team of all-time. Sandwiched between the '78 and '75 Steelers teams on the list are the 1985 Chicago Bears.


Steelers RB Willie Parker averages 128 rushing yards at home and 51 on the road. ... Ravens RB Jamal Lewis averages 66.2 rushing yards at home this year and 3.7 per carry in his career against the Steelers. ... The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season and only one – Rudi Johnson – in their last 36 games. ... TE Heath Miller caught two touchdown passes against the Ravens last season, but the Ravens held Falcons TE Alge Crumpler to two catches for 16 yards last week. ... The Steelers are last in kickoff return defense and 29th in punt-return defense, while Ravens return man B.J. Sams is sixth in kickoff return average and third in punt return average. ... If the draft were held today, the Steelers would pick 13th. ... The Steelers on Saturday activated WR Walter Young from their practice squad and waived LB Marquis Cooper.

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