The Cat and Mouse Game

PITTSBURGH - Like a 2-year-old, the Steelers' safeties have been testing their boundaries the past few weeks. But, when Brent Alexander and Lee Flowers find they've gone too far, they aren't sent for a timeout. Instead they get beat for a long pass.

"We've always moved before the snap to show quarterbacks a different look," said Alexander. "But the past couple of weeks, we've really pushed our boundaries, especially against Indianapolis. It was a game within the game. Lee and I were moving around and (Colts quarterback) Peyton Manning would step under center and then he'd step back and try to get a read on us. Then he'd step back under center and we'd move again."

The cat-and-mouse game has worked as the Steelers have won their past two games, 34-7 at Cincinnati and 28-10 against Indianapolis at Heinz Field, picking up seven sacks and intercepting six passes. Flowers and Alexander combined for four of those interceptions, with Flowers getting two at Cincinnati and Alexander matching him against the Colts.

On Sunday, they'll be put to the test again when the Steelers travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens and quarterback Chris Redman, whose six career starts have come this season.

"He's a young quarterback, he's getting more confident with every game, but he's still a young quarterback," said Flowers. "We've got to take advantage of that. I think, if Brent and I can confuse Peyton, then we can really go to work on him.

"Any time you run a fire zone, it's hard for a young quarterback to know where (the defense) is coming from, without us disguising it. I've always said that you can't practice for a fire zone defense; you have to play against it a couple of years to really get a feel for it. (Redman) is going to have a long day."

Most quarterbacks will try to read the safeties to determine the defensive coverages and where blitzes might come from. With Flowers and Alexander in constant motion, the quarterback is forced to read the defense quickly, causing him just a moment of indecisiveness.

"That's what we're trying to cause, that extra half-second that gives our guys up front a chance to get to him," said Alexander, who also had a sack against the Colts.

"Sometimes, we don't get all the way back into position, but you hope that you get to him before he can beat you."

It's the type of gambling, attacking defense that has been a standard in Pittsburgh since Bill Cowher became head coach in 1992. It's also the type of defense the Steelers got away from in their first two games when New England and Oakland spread them out with three-and-four- wide receiver sets and a no-huddle offense.

Instead of attacking, the Steelers attempted to match the offense's package and played more of a prevent style of defense. Now, the defense is back to what it does best - pressuring quarterbacks

. "You have to give (defensive coordinator) Tim Lewis a lot of credit because he's trusting us to do our job in the secondary," said Flowers.

--Dale Lolley

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