Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau had a great scheme on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans and he made sure it featured his best play maker in the lead role. I suggested in my 7 things to look for article that the Steelers should utilize Troy Polamalu down in the box more against the Titans in hopes of providing some run support and help out against the short routes of a tight end or a running back scheme. What LeBeau ended up doing was to break out the dime package (big nickel) and use Polamalu more as a dime back/linebacker on Sunday.
The Steelers played their normal base defense early in the game on early run downs with James Farrior and Larry Foote playing inside at the accustomed MACK & BUCK roles. On obvious passing downs Foote came off and Ryan Mundy came on to play strong safety and Polamalu dropped down into the box. At the same time, William Gay slides into the slot, the nickel role, and Keenan Lewis takes over the spot of Gay outside. This puts 6 defensive backs on the field and allows Polamalu to really do what he does best, cause havoc down low based on his reads of the offense.
Polamalu ended the day second on the team in combined tackles with 9 and was credited with 3 passes defended. He was everywhere and I have him targeted 7 times in coverage. Of course he did have one penalty in coverage, but it was a nice hook and half of the time he gets away with that.
Allowing Polamalu to spend most of the day down low really had Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck confused as well and wondering what he was doing from play to play. Here is a question and answer of his after the game. Hasselbeck said he still had more questions than answers.
Do you think it’s still a work in progress on offense with timing and communication?
I think more than that, what the Steelers did was they played us man outside with two safeties and kind of like a zone inside. Again, you got guys like Troy Polamalu who are just play-makers who just run to the ball, just running to what he feels, what he thinks. He’s a great player and he was disruptive to us. He made some of our reads a little slower because we were trying to figure out what he was doing. He’s a great player that makes it hard on you. I wish I had more answers. I just have more questions than answers right now.
LeBeau has not broken out the 6 defensive back look in some time now as it usually means that it takes Lawrence Timmons off the field. With Timmons playing right outside linebacker because of the fractured right orbital suffered by James Harrison, LeBeau only has to sacrifice Foote and hope Mundy stays sound in his 2 deep role.
Mundy played a good game outside of allowing Hasselbeck to freeze him on the touchdown throw to Damian Williams in the fourth quarter. Lewis is partly to blame as well after peeking into the backfield to locate the play and allowed Williams a little more separation than he should have perhaps. He was expecting help over the top and Mundy was late getting there. There was also the blown coverage later in the game but Hasselbeck was unable to hit Nate Washington for the easy touchdown. Mundy was trailing at the end of the play and could have been the culprit, but it is hard to tell.
I don\’t think this is the last you have seen of the LeBeau dime as the Steelers will likely use it the next several weeks. It likely can be best utilized against the Patriots a few weeks from now to help slow down their vertical 2 tight end threat that caused the Steelers so much trouble last year.
LeBeau is great at adjusting to new ways to attack him and he is willing to spare a dime to get it done.