Are the Playoff Steelers Under Wraps?

<p>Last Sunday against the Titans, the Steelers couldn't do anything right. They couldn't block, tackle, run, kick, or throw the ball. Fundamentally, the Steelers were flat. But looming there is one constant, the failure of the Steelers dime defense. With the playoffs still well in sight, are the Steelers harboring any surprises for the games in January?</p>

An apparently frustrated Jason Gildon threw the media a bone after the loss to the Titans, "We're doing a lot of different things this year than we did last year; I'm just going to leave it at that."

The press picked up on it and made it an issue during Tuesday's press conference.

Reporter: Bill, Jason Gildon said 'we're doing a lot of things differently.' Is that happening?

Bill Cowher: When you talk to players after the game a lot of times, there is a lot of frustration.

As Cowher's want, he skirted the question. He did not answer if the Steelers are doing things differently.

But Gildon clearly stated what is different this year, "From a pass rusher, you never can rush the passer enough, but, at the same time, I'm here to help my team win and whatever it takes, that's what I'm going to do. I just feel there's no reason for us to have this type of lull or letdown on third down considering the type of players we have out there."

Simply put, the Steelers have reined in Jason Gildon the pass rusher. Some have pointed out that the opposition has spread the field in order to accomplish this change. That makes sense, when the Steelers are in the base on 1st and 2nd down. The difference Gildon is talking about is on 3rd down when the Steelers are in the dime.

Gildon's value to the Steelers does not extend much beyond his ability as a pass rusher. And the Pittsburgh media has begun to take aim at Gildon as the weak link in the dime.

More than a few have suggested replacing Gildon with Bell in the dime. Anything that might get Kendrell Bell on the field sounds like a great idea. But what good does it do to replace Gildon with Bell and simply drop him into coverage as well? What kind of increased productivity might we expect?

If we are talking about sacks the Steelers could merely turn Gildon back into a pass rusher in the dime. For some reason, the Steelers seem reluctant to do this, and thus Gildon's frustration.

Dropping Gildon into coverage instead of rushing him would be akin to the Steelers not using rookie Antwaan Randle El in the backfield. Why wouldn't you use a player's talents to your utmost advantage?

But wait, that's exactly what the Steelers did against the Tennessee Titans.

Steelers Insiders Dale Lolley seemed to be one of the few reporters to notice, "Where were the trick plays this week? The Steelers ran the ill-fated Bettis reverse and throwback - it worked in practice guys - and a couple of other little games in the backfield with fake pitches, but there were none of the wide receiver runs we had seen work so well in recent weeks."

Why wouldn't you use what worked so well in the dime last season this season? Where are the Gildon rushes that generated 12 sacks last season in a very successful Steeler dime defense?

Perhaps the Steelers are using Gildon as a decoy in their attempt to disguise coverages. That's great, but do the Steelers need to do it so often?

The Steelers learned a few lessons against the Patriots last January. It is good to have a surprise or two left in the bag for the playoffs. The Steelers offensive line dominated pretty much every game in 2001 except at the time it mattered most.

Amos Zereoue described what happened in the playoff loss to the Patriots, "They had a good scheme. We were trying to get accustomed to what they were doing in the first half. But when you're out there thinking, trying to figure out what you're doing, it limits your ability to do what you always do."

"They took a lot of chances with their safeties and they tried to overload the front side," Steelers offensive tackle Wayne Gandy said. "They schemed us very well."

The Steelers were shocked and never recovered during that game. The Steelers were simply sticking with what worked for them in the regular season and when the Patriots gave them a look they didn't anticipate, the Steelers did not have the means or the practice in making the necessary adjustment.

The Steelers can hide plays on the offense. Why can't they do it on the defense? What the Steelers may be doing is hiding a few defensive wrinkles for the playoffs. Gildon has proven he can wreak havoc as a pass rusher. Why let teams scheme for that?

The main problem may be Gildon's ego. Sacks are high profile defensive plays and Gildon just signed a big contract in the off-season that would seem to be a reward for making that very type of play. But Gildon is not complaining about double teams. He's complaining about how the Steelers are doing things differently than last season.

Last season ended one game short of the Super Bowl. The Steelers better do something differently.


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