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Old 11-04-2009, 05:49 PM   #1
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Default Depth along the defensive line an issue now facing Steelers

http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=090...s&confirm=true

PITTSBURGH -- The thin air in Denver isn't as much of a concern to the Steelers as their rapidly thinning defensive line.

The Steelers (5-2) already were without defensive end Aaron Smith, a premier run-stopper who's sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn right rotator cuff. Now they're missing his replacement, Travis Kirschke, who has a torn left calf muscle that could keep him out another couple of weeks. He was injured during a 27-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 25.

Another blow to Steelers' D
Steelers starting free safety Ryan Clark likely will sit out Sunday's game against the Broncos because of
a rare medical condition,
One of the strengths of a Steelers defense that was the NFL's best the last two seasons is its depth, but that's all but vanished now that Smith and Kirschke are hurt. Now Pittsburgh must depend on two rookies and a player who was cut last month.

Welcome to the NFL, Ziggy Hood and Sunny Harris. Welcome back, Nick Eason.

Hood, a first-round draft pick, won't start against the Broncos (6-1) on Monday night, but he's expected to receive significant playing time because teams traditionally rotate linemen in Denver's high altitude. Eason, a former Broncos draft pick, will move from right defensive end, where he backs up Brett Keisel, to start at left defensive end. Harris is the other backup.

Only a month ago, Eason was let go so the Steelers could activate an extra running back. Suddenly, he is starting on the defense that has allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL this season.

"I was released the fourth game, and the next thing you know, I'm playing," Eason said Wednesday. "Now I'll be playing a lot more. My snaps have doubled in three weeks. It's amazing, but that's the life story in the NFL."

Harris, a sixth-round draft pick, has a similar story. He was released after training camp, only to re-sign two weeks ago after spending time on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad.



Because of the injuries, the Steelers must go into one of their biggest games of the season with only one experienced backup defensive lineman in nose tackle Chris Hoke, who plays behind Casey Hampton. Hoke can play defensive end, but it's likely he'll receive more playing time than usual in the middle as Hampton takes off some plays.

"We go through this every year," Keisel said. "Last year, I was out for a few games, and Aaron missed some games (in 2007). We have a lot of guys who know how to play."

Or at least the Steelers believe they know how to play.

Hood, a former star at Missouri, has taken a minimal number of snaps this season. He usually spends his practice weeks on the scout team that replicates the opposing defense.

"He's a tough guys to block on Wednesdays and Thursdays," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "At some point, he's going to be a tough guy to block on Sundays. We'll see when that happens."

Hood said it has been a lot to absorb as a rookie, keeping up on the Steelers' ever-changing defense while also learning a different style each week during practice.

"Each day, I see I'm somewhat getting better, not only mentally but physically as well," Hood said. "I believe I've taken the necessary steps to get better. When the starters need to take a breather, I'll be able to fill in until they get better and go 100 percent every snap."


Blog Blitz: Steelers
While the Steelers have allowed 76.6 rushing yards this season, the Broncos are averaging 123.1, 11th best in the league. Rookie Knowshon Moreno has run for 420 yards, and veteran Correll Buckhalter has gained 329 yards and averaged 6 yards per carry.

"I've told a lot of young guys, 'The only way you can get prepared to play is to play,'" Eason said. "You can practice all week, but when you get in a game, it's a different mentality.

"It's a lot more pressure, there's the fans, it's different -- it's 100 miles per hour and it's full-go tackling. And that's the only way that guys like Ziggy and Sunny can get playing experience
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Old 11-04-2009, 06:07 PM   #2
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Nick Eason?


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Old 11-05-2009, 03:23 AM   #3
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Hopefully Hamilton won't get owned as badly this week. If he is still starting - which he should not be.
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Old 11-05-2009, 06:54 AM   #4
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Report: Steelers "highly unlikely" to let Clark play
Posted by Michael David Smith on November 4, 2009 8:15 PM ET

It's increasingly looking like the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided not to let Ryan Clark play in Denver Monday night, even if Clark wants to and the doctors have cleared him.

Jason La Canfora of NFL Network says unnamed league sources describe Clark as "highly unlikely" to play because of a rare sickle-cell trait that caused him life-threatening health problems the last time he played in Denver's high altitude. After that game, Clark needed emergency surgery to remove his spleen. He also had health problems after he played in Denver when he was a member of the Redskins in 2005 and had to miss the following week's game.

La Canfora writes that Clark wants to play, and that a final decision hasn't been made, but that the Steelers are widely expected to keep him off the field. Even though doctors have said he can play, the Steelers as an organization apparently view it as just too risky.

As Mike Florio noted in the latest PFTV segment, we can't help but feel respect for Clark for his willingness to put his own health on the line in order to compete. But we should also have plenty of respect for the Steelers for wanting to play it safe with the health of their starting free safety.


http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com...et-clark-play/
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Old 11-05-2009, 07:20 AM   #5
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Bad news for the Steelers. I have a feeling that after last week's performance, the Broncos' Oline is going to come out with something to prove. Might be a nice stat week for Correll and Knowshon, eh?
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Old 11-05-2009, 08:10 AM   #6
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Nick Eason, from Clemson. Another Shanny gem...
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Old 11-05-2009, 04:25 PM   #7
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Nick Eason, from Clemson. Another Shanny gem...
He has actually played pretty well this year
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Old 11-05-2009, 04:37 PM   #8
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I have a feeling it won't be that big of drop off for the Squeelers.
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Old 11-05-2009, 05:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meangene View Post
Hopefully Hamilton won't get owned as badly this week. If he is still starting - which he should not be.
well Casey Hampton a strong inside player. It won't be easy. But at least no Trevor Pryce type stud alongside him to really wreck the interior LOS.

Also we might want to think about some no huddle. High altitude, lack of depth, make them tire out. A good running game would sure be a godsend in this one.
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Old 11-06-2009, 02:45 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by cutthemdown View Post
well Casey Hampton a strong inside player. It won't be easy. But at least no Trevor Pryce type stud alongside him to really wreck the interior LOS.

Also we might want to think about some no huddle. High altitude, lack of depth, make them tire out. A good running game would sure be a godsend in this one.
I really think we would be so much better off with a bigger guy in place of Hamilton. He simply does not fit the new scheme and has lost a lot of the athleticism that made him effective in the first place.

Good idea on the no huddle. I was thinking the same thing. McD and the Pats have had great success against Pittsburgh in the past by spreading them out also. But, our line is going to have to hold up long enough for Orton to get the ball out and make the hot reads on the blitzes.
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