You don't become an NFL coach if you can't make adjustments.
If an opponent is beating his team in one phase of the game, coaches won't hesistate to adjust and take away - or at least neutralize - what the opponent is doing.
So it has been with the Pittsburgh Steelers pass rush.
The Steelers had 32 sacks in the first eight games of the regular season, putting them on a team record-setting pace. But Pittsburgh had only 19 sacks over its final eight games as opponents adjusted to keep outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley from getting to the quarterback.
"A lot of people feel like maybe I hit a wall or something, but I don't feel like I hit a wall or anything," said Woodley, who had 9.5 sacks in the first half of the season and finished with 11.5.
"I haven't been able to get in there and get the sacks that I was getting earlier in the season, but are we still winning? Yeah, we're still winning. I'm going in there and doing what I'm supposed to do, putting pressure on the quarterback, stopping the run."
It wasn't so much that Woodley and Harrison, who combined for 19.5 sacks in the first eight games, hit the wall as much as opponents built a wall against them.
That will be the case again Sunday when the Steelers (12-4) play the San Diego Chargers (9-8) at Heinz Field in an AFC divisional playoff game.
"You always want to weigh the consequences. When you have those guys rushing off of the edge, and you have Troy (Polamalu) running around there in the secondary - he can end up anywhere - you have to be smart about what you do and how many chances you take," said San Diego head coach Norv Turner.
The Chargers didn't get much going offensively the first time they played the Steelers, an 11-10 Pittsburgh victory Nov. 16. The Chargers gained only 218 yards. But they did keep Woodley and Harrison in check for most of the game and gave up only two sacks.
One of the sacks was costly as Harrison got to quarterback Philip Rivers in the end zone, forcing a fumble. The ball was recovered by the Chargers in the end zone but resulted in a safety.
San Diego did what many other teams have done against the Steelers - use the three-step and five-step passing game, allowing the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly.
"They're not dropping back as deep into the pocket," Woodley said. "You're not going to get as much pressure when a team's doing that to you."
As a result, most of Rivers' 15 completions against the Steelers went to running backs and tight ends. San Diego's wide receivers caught only five passes.
"Teams aren't letting our outside linebackers take shots at their quarterback," said cornerback Bryant McFadden. "They're throwing more short stuff and forcing us to come up and tackle. It's a cat-and-mouse game. We try to mix things up and show that we're coming and have guys drop into coverage. They think they've got to get it out quickly, and then we're rushing three or four guys with everybody else in coverage."
The result has been more interceptions. Over the second half of the season, while the sacks were down, the interceptions were up. The Steelers had 12 in their final eight games.
"When you get pressure the way that we do, teams have to change up," said safety Ryan Clark. "You can't run your schemes ... somebody has to stay in to block."
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.