Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defense Stingy in Red Zone Steelers Turn Up Intensity with Fourth-Down Stops

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defense Stingy in Red Zone Steelers Turn Up Intensity with Fourth-Down Stops

Article excerpt

The Steelers are not a dominant defense by any stretch of the imagination. Keith Butler's unit won't remind anyone of the 2008 defense that led the NFL in total defense and scoring defense when it allowed 237 yards and 13.9 points per game. This defense is giving up 111 more yards and almost six more points per game than that famed unit.

But Butler's defense is leading the league in a very important category that has contributed greatly to the three-game winning streak that has vaulted the Steelers back into playoff contention. They are No. 1 in the NFL in red-zone defense. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on just 42.5 percent of their trips inside the Steelers 20-yard line.

"I feel like it starts with the preparation," outside linebacker Arthur Moats said. "I feel like we're extremely comfortable in the red zone because we work a lot there. That's been going on since OTAs. Coach Tomlin puts a huge emphasis on that. It's a comfort level. When we're down there we know how to execute, how to change our techniques. The field is smaller. It's more condensed. You're not going to get certain routes or certain running plays in that area. Just that understanding that we have is why we're successful in the red zone."

The funny thing is, opposing coaches don't seem to notice. They continue to challenge the defense in goal-line situations.

And the Steelers continue to stand tall.

Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano and New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo eschewed field-goal attempts in the red zone to go for touchdowns when time and score were not major factors the past two games.

The Giants trailed the Steelers, 14-0, with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter when McAdoo decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 3. Eli Manning's pass attempt was broken up by inside linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Pagano rolled the dice early in the game as well. The Colts trailed the Steelers, 21-7, when they were driving late in the second quarter. When the drive stalled at the 1 with 1:12 to go in the half, Pagano went for the touchdown.

It was the first of two goal-line stands in the game. The score remained 21-7 when the Colts possessed the ball for most of the third quarter with a 19-play drive that consumed more than 11 minutes. …

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