James Harrison: If one person doesn't get the job done, it looks bad for the whole squad
Steelers linebacker goes off on team again - this time on defense's effort in Houston
October 4, 2011 4:00 AM
The Texans' Arian Foster (23) breaks away from Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley Sunday.
Ben Roethlisberger walks off the field slowly after being sacked by Houston for the fifth time.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A perturbed James Harrison suggests that if the Steelers defense cannot play better than it has, they must make some changes. He did not say who should be involved in those changes, but made it clear the defensive scheme is not to blame.
"Every man needs to do his job, take care of his responsibilities," Harrison fumed after the Houston Texans gouged his defense Sunday. "It's not the scheme, it's not other BS; it's each man doing his job, and, right now, every man is not doing his job, period."
"People are getting beat. You have to come out there and work the man who's in front of you, and we're not doing that right now."
Harrison pointed no fingers, at least not specifically, in the direction of any individuals.
"They came out there and did what they had to do," Harrison said of the Texans, who beat the Steelers, 17-10, to drop them into a three-way tie for second with Cleveland and Cincinnati in the AFC North at 2-2.
"They executed, they got us up out of there, they opened up holes, they opened up gaps. We didn't do our job, and they did theirs. Give them all the credit.
"Each man needs to nut up, look at himself and get in there and take care of his responsibilities. Each play is 11 individuals; if one person doesn't get the job done, it looks bad for the whole squad."
And then the four-time All-Pro linebacker came to his conclusion that something needs to change because he never has seen anything like it in games that count.
"Worried? No," he said. "Concerned? Yeah. We have to get things shored up. Whether that's changing this and changing that, I don't know, but we have to get something done because it's not working so far.
"I haven't seen it like this, maybe a preseason game here and there, but not like this the way it's going right now."
Foot not broken
Tests showed no broken bones in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's left foot, which remained sore and somewhat swollen after it was injured Sunday in Houston.
There still could be some other structural damage in the foot, which is being described as sprained, according to a source with knowledge of the injury. That damage will not be fully determined until the swelling subsides.
Roethlisberger's status for the game Sunday against Tennessee at Heinz Field has yet to be determined.
The way things are going for the quarterback, his status for the rest of the season has yet to be determined because he is under constant attack.
Zone-blocking new nemesis
The tape from the loss in Houston, no doubt, already found its way into the hands of halfback Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans, a team trying to figure out why it has been unable to run the ball effectively.
The Steelers, who ranked third best in the NFL since 1970 in stopping the run last season by allowing just 62.8 rushing yards per game, are allowing nearly twice that much this season (119.5 per game), 23rd in the league.
"You know how the league goes, it's a copy-cat league," safety Ryan Clark said. "Once you put certain things on film, teams will attack you that way. So, until we put a stop to teams running the football on us, I think you're going to see that week in and week out."
The Steelers suddenly, shockingly, cannot stop the run, and the two teams that have had the most success, the Baltimore Ravens (170 yards) and Houston Texans (180 yards) have run similar blocking schemes and used similar game plans with their backs. They zone block, chop block and their backs cut back against the flow.
"That zone scheme, we've been having a little trouble stopping," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "Can't make no bones about it, that's what it is. We just have to figure out a way to get guys on the ground and make plays."
Hampton expects the Titans and most future opponents to follow that formula until the Steelers stop it.
"You know, it's a copy-cat league. Whenever something works, that's what everybody's doing -- cut the backside guy and let the linemen run and the back pick and choose. It's not a physical thing, it's just a thing where you make guys make plays and we're just not doing a good job of making plays.
"It's a great scheme if you have a patient back who hits it up in there, and, the two times we had trouble with it, you had two patient backs. That's the scheme, man, that's just the way they're doing it."
Baltimore's Ray Rice ran 19 times for 107 yards against the Steelers in the opener and Arian Foster added 155 yards on 30 carries Sunday in Houston, the most yards by a back against them in the past eight years.
Linebacker James Farrior, the captain of the defense, also cited the zone-blocking schemes as causing the Steelers problems.
"Yeah, it has been. It's been giving us some problems, obviously, so we got to get it right."
The solution, he said, is for players to perform better fundamentally.
"We just have to tackle better, communicate better. I mean, there's not really a whole lot of rocket science to it -- everybody staying up, [defend] the backend cut, everybody playing their gap. Foster was very patient in the running game. He waited and waited and waited and let his blocks set up and went to the hole he saw."
Farrior also believes opponents will try to copy what the Ravens and Texans did, even if they do not usually use a zone-blocking scheme.
"I expect to see it now. I think they're going to try."
The Steelers defense has seven sacks after getting none in Houston. That puts them on pace for 28, which would be their fewest by far since 1988 when they managed 19 and finished 5-11. On the other side, Roethlisberger has been sacked 14 times through one-fourth of the season. That would put him on pace to be sacked 64 times, which would set an all-time Steelers record for quarterbacks. Cliff Stoudt owns the record with 52 in 1983. Roethlisberger was sacked 50 times in 2009.