Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was asked Wednesday following practice if there is one area that he thought his defense needed to improve in heading into 2013, and his response was one that you would expect to hear come out of his mouth based on what has happened, or in this case, what hasn\’t happened enough the last two seasons.
“The first thing, the obvious thing, is we have to get more turnovers,” said LeBeau. “We’ve had years that we’ve been real productive there, but the last couple we haven’t been. I wish I knew the answer to the why, but we’re searching for those answers and we’re working in that direction. We’ll keep stressing it. That’s the most obvious area. We have to help the offense shorten their field and maybe get some more points ourselves. You’ve got to get fumbles, sacks and interceptions to do that. We want to get [production] higher in that for sure.”
Despite being ranked first or second in several defensive categories over the course of the last two seasons the Steelers defense has lacked in the sacks and turnover departments severely. 2012 marked the second straight year that the defense failed to register at least 40 sacks, and their 20 total takeaways was only five more than they registered in 2011.
While LeBeau said that he didn\’t know the answer when it comes to creating more turnovers, safety Troy Polamalu provided some tips of his own.
“First off all, consciously, we have to be really ball-aware, but everything stems from pressure and disguise; we have to pressure quarterbacks into making bad decisions by doing that,” said Polamalu. “You\’ve got to hit him. You\’ve got to get after the quarterback. We\’ve got to get a better pass rush. We\’ve got to cover the one to three seconds better and let guys work that are blitzing. We\’ve got to win one-on-one matchups in order to do that. But, when it comes down to it, when we get opportunities, we\’ve got to seize them. We got our hands on a lot of balls last year, so hopefully we\’ll be able to seize those opportunities this year.”
The Steelers drafted Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and while he will eventually become the starter at right outside linebacker, and hopefully be a long-term sack and pressure producer, LeBeau hinted Wednesday that he, along with all the other defensive draft picks, still have a lot to learn before any of them will see the field. That being said, LeBeau likes what he\’s seen so far out of Jones.
“We were excited to be lucky enough to get him in the draft,”said LeBeau. “Everything I have seen here, he has really got a great work ethic. He’s a great young man. He didn’t come in here expecting anything to be handed to him. He wants to earn his spot on our roster. It’s just all been positive. Plus, he’s shown us a lot of instinctive football ability. If the coach doesn’t mess him up, I think he’s got a chance to be a pretty good player.”
So is LeBeau thinking about retirement just yet?
“I don\’t think, because of the situation I\’m in, it would be very productive to think about it,” said LeBeau. “I just go one day at a time really and one year at a time, and feel blessed that I\’m still in the game and surrounded with young people that are working hard. I don\’t worry too much about the future. Some of us don\’t have as much future as some of the others.”