January 29, 2011

Free Super Bowl XLV Picks: Analyzing the Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

Hits like this one that you see to the right have become a staple of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense. This is a unit that hits you in the mouth and doesn’t care that the league is going to place fins on it. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau has put together a unit that ranked No. 2 in the league at 276.8 yards per game and No. 1 against the rush at 62.8 yards per game. The scoring average of 14.5 points per game was also tops in the league. Will this unit be able to have this sort of success against the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, though? Check out our Super Bowl betting analysis of one of the scariest units in the league.

Woodley and Harrison – Sack Partners in Crime: LB James Harrison has become known for delivering some of the most eye popping hits. Just ask any of the Cleveland Browns or any of the other players that he has nailed over the course of the season how hard he delivers shots. Though Harrison is really the enforcer on the outside of this defense, he wouldn’t be nearly as strong if teams didn’t have to focus on LaMarr Woodley just as much. These two made up one of the rare pairs of teammates that had double digits worth of sacks, as Harrison had 10.5 and Woodley had 10.0 on the campaign. The two outside linebackers for the Steelers consistently made life a living hell on opposing quarterbacks, and they are going to be the keys in this game against a veteran offensive line that knows what it is running up against.

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Timmons and Farrior Key for Stopping the Run: Sure, we all know that Woodley and Harrison were the sack brothers, but the reason that the Steelers had a legendarily good rush defense this year was because of the play of LB Lawrence Timmons and LB James Farrior. The two combined for over 170 tackles and nine sacks this year, and when teams try to run right up the middle against these guys, there is just no room. Head Coach John Harbaugh for the Baltimore Ravens compared running against this duo about as successful as running into a brick wall time and time again. His top back, RB Ray Rice didn’t even sniff 100 total yards on the ground in three games against this defense, and we don’t expect to see a rookie in RB James Starks do much of anything either in the Super Bowl.

Hard Hitting Secondary Good in Coverage as Well: Everyone says that the Steelers are weak at cornerback and that the Green Bay defense is just like the Pittsburgh ‘D’, except that it has elite corners. We beg to differ. Sure, beyond DB Ike Taylor, there really aren’t any great corners on this team, but DB Bryant McFadden knows what it is like to win a Super Bowl as a second corner for the black and gold, and he is more than serviceable. S Troy Polamalu and his crazy hair accounted for a sack, 49 tackles, and a whopping seven picks this season in spite of the fact that he missed two games, and though he might not have the best stats for any defensive player in the league, he is clearly the most valuable defensive player out there. This is a unit that has picked off 21 passes this year, and you can bet that it is going to try to flex its muscles once again in Super Bowl XLV.

Final Verdict: There’s just nothing that you can do against this team at times, as there are games that the Steelers just take every option away from you. Running on them is totally out of the question, and we aren’t so sure whether throwing it is that much better of an idea either. Green Bay definitely has its hands full trying to figure this unit out, especially knowing that it has to be upset about seeing so many points hit the board without it being on the field in recent weeks.

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