Steelers defense not yet over the hill


Steelers defense not yet over the hill

FOXBORO Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor is 31 years old. At linebacker, you have James Harrison who is 33 and counting. Then there's linebacker James Farrior, who will be 37 years old if the Steelers managed to get to the Super Bowl this season.

This Pittsburgh defense may be low on young bodies, but it's loaded with experience.

That lack of youth was thought to be why the Steelers got off to a pedestrian 2-2 start.

Three weeks -- and three consecutive wins -- later, the Steelers look like a different team than the one on the field during the first month of the season.

All that talk about this once-dominant defense being past their prime? It's a thing of the past now.

"We don't pay attention to the elevator music; we really don't," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, in a not-so-veiled reference to the up-and-down perception of his team in the media. "That's stuff that they say. We stay focused on what it is, we're doing. And that's how we prepare, and hopefully that's how we play. We understand that we're going to be judged in forms and fashions based on our performance. But just that, it's based on our performance. We stay focused on our performance."

And lately, that form has been impressive with each of their last three wins coming by an average of 12.3 points per game.

In addition, Pittsburgh (5-2) comes into Sunday's game against New England with the NFL's No. 3 defense.

Although Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a 6-1 record against Pittsburgh (4-1 in the regular season, 2-0 in the playoffs), he recognizes as much as anyone how good this team is defensively.

"They're very physical, they cover well, and they have continuity in their defense," Brady said. "They get after the quarterback, they really do. That's the hallmark of this defense - they rush the passer, they stop the run, they're a big physical defense that plays very hard and is very well coached. They don't make very many mental errors at all."

Of course, it also helps to have a versatile playmaker like strong safety Troy Polamalu who is third on the team in tackles (43) this season.

"He's very dangerous," said Pats coach Bill Belichick. "He's an impact player, very disruptive player. Defensively he fouls up a lot of things - blitzing, pass coverage, tackling, he's a hard hitter, knocks balls loose but he's around the ball a lot. He can get there in a hurry and when he gets there he can do a lot of damage. You have to be aware of him on every snap."

He's not alone, of course. Pittsburgh is giving up just 279 yards per game, and an NFL-low 171.9 through the air. Not bad for a bunch of old men, huh?

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger chuckles at the thought of his defense being over the hill.

"Just stay the course," he said. "We're too old -- quote, unquote old -- to really let that bother us or get to us. Most of us have been around and kind of understand what goes with the territory of this league and a team and we just kind of . . . stay the course."

Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'


Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'

Malcolm Butler didn't mean any disrespect. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 


When the Patriots corner picked off a Landry Jones pass in the first quarter -- one that was intended for receiver Antonio Brown -- Butler stood up in the end zone, faced the Heinz Field crowd, stuck one arm in the air But and gyrated like someone had attached jumper cables to his facemask. 

He was doing his best to mimick one of Brown's well-known touchdown dances.

"Me and Brown had conversation before," Butler said, "and it was a joke to him once I showed him how I do it. Much love for that guy. Nothing personal."

For Butler, it was the highlight of what was a productive afternoon. The third-year corner was asked to shadow Brown for much of the day, and he held Brown to five catches on nine targets for 94 yards. He also broke up a pair of passes intended for Brown's teammates.

“Stopping Antonio Brown, that’s impossible," Butler said. "You can’t stop him. You can only slow him down. I just went out there and tried to compete today . . . Great players are going to make plays but you have to match their intensity.”
Even on the longest throw from backup quarterback Landry Jones to Brown, a 51-yarder, it appeared as though Butler played the coverage called correctly. 

Butler lined up across from Brown and trailed him underneath as Brown worked his way from the left side of the field to the right. Butler was looking for some help over the top in that scenario, seemingly, but because Brown ran across the formation, it was hard for the back end of the defense to figure out who would be helping Butler. 

Coach Bill Belichick admitted as much after the game. 

"He was on [Brown] a lot the way we set it up," Belichick said. "Look, they've got great players. They're tough to cover. They hit us on a couple over routes, in cut where they kind of ran away from the coverage that we had. 

"The plays were well designed. Good scheme, good thorws and obviously good routes by Brown. They got us on a couple, but I thought we competed hard. We battled all the way. We battled on third down. We battled in the red area. They made some. We made some, but they're good. They have a lot of good players."

And Brown, in particular, is about as close as it gets to unstoppable in the NFL. Butler found that out in Week 1 of last year when he matched up with Brown in his first game as a starter, giving up 9 catches for 133 yards to the All-Pro wideout. 

Though Sunday might not have been perfect for Butler, it was better than that day about 14 months ago. And at times, it was worth dancing about. 

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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