Pregame Zone Blitz: Pittsburgh Steelers Look To Return To Basics Against Seattle

It's back to basics in the Burgh this week.

Nevermind chop blocks, or trash talk from former players. Forget about underwhelming defensive line performances or even what was shipped to opposing quarterbacks this week.

The Steelers need to focus on the fundamentals that made this team so successful the last few years. While their opponent may not be Walsh's 49ers, it's a dangerous team capable of success in a few pivotal areas. The approach for those kinds of teams is a strict focus on the basics of the game; technique, footwork, positioning and effort.

It's Back To Basics Week here at PZB, and the Steelers are going to out-fundamental Seattle in Week 2.     

Opponent Web Sites/Forums

With the likely return of LG Robert Gallery, and a brutal performance against San Francisco RT Breno Giacomini will be moved out of the right tackle position, and veteran James Carpenter will move back there, says Danny Kelly of Field Gulls.

Kelly breaks down the keys for the Seahawks in this game.

Tim Booth of the Associated Press wrote a piece appearing in Thursday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer talking about S Leroy Hill's rookie season with Seattle that ended up with an appearance in the Super Bowl. He almost went the whole story without mentioning the officiating.

NuVo, a prophylactics manufacturer, sent Seahawks QB Tarvaris Jackson a box of condoms "for extra protection" after being sacked five times in last week's loss to San Francisco.

Last Game

It was as if the Ravens were playing in fast-forward. Like, they already had played that game and they were going over it again to eliminate mistakes.

Ya gotta nod your hat to a team that executes that precisely.

It's unsure whether they knew the ball would be in the air where they could catch it, or whether it was somehow magnetized to the ground, but the seven turnovers Pittsburgh committed were neither expected nor typical of the defending AFC champions.

What's for certain is that level of play is not acceptable.

The good news is it forces the Steelers into essentially a must-win Week 2 showdown with Seattle, and even better, QB Tarvaris Jackson. The bad news is even if it is Jackson under center, the Seahawks are also in a must-win situation.

They can't envy the situation they're in. The Steelers' veteran leadership and coaching staff will ensure everyone's at a razor-sharp level of focus all week, and they're looking to re-establish their team as one of the best in the NFL.

Perhaps they should have been there before Week 1. The Ravens certainly were. 

Us Against The World

How utterly ridiculous is it that James Harrison makes a football act and gets fined $75,000, and Richard Seymour, despite whatever happened to provoke him, slugs a player on national TV in full view of the cameras and knocks him to the ground -- and gets fined $25,000. Weak. Very weak.

Peter King

If the Steelers are pissed about chop-blocks, then they should show it.

If they're gonna take criticism from pompous blow-hards like Warren Sapp, it's all the better.

These are all things the Steelers should keep with them this season. Teams are gonna resort to bush-league tactics to take out one of their best players. They're gonna continue talking about how old they are. They're going to keep getting $15,000 fines for plays that are typically fined $5,000.

If it's Us Against The World, The World is leading on the scorecard after Round 1. For champions, It's not about age or tactics. It's about how they respond when they get knocked down.

The extra motivation they're receiving is slowly coming to a boil, and it's going to explode in Week 2. Jackson committed multiple turnovers against San Francisco, he's gonna have a helluva time this week. Speaking of Jackson...

Opponent Offensive Spotlight: QB Tarvaris Jackson

To say Jackson has been erratic in his career is inaccurate; he's never really been any good.

It was questionable to say the least for Seattle to jettison veteran Matt Hasselbeck, essentially, for Jackson. Anyone else, maybe, but not a passer with a career completion percentage below 60 and 41 turnovers to just 30 total touchdowns.

Jackson's line in Seattle Week 1 loss was fairly typical for the former Vikings project - 21-of-37, 197 yards, two TDs, 1 INT, three fumbles, losing two of them.

One step forward, two steps back.

Making it worse on the Seahawks is a patchwork offensive line that was without prize free agent acquisition LG Robert Gallery in Week 1. Without him, Seattle moved RT James Carpenter to left guard, who had a disastrous game. Arguably playing even worse was replacement RT Breno Giacomini. All told, the Seahawks allowed five sacks, and Jackson is not exactly a better passer when pressure is on him.

Even with the return of Gallery, the Steelers should be able to get enough pressure on Jackson to disorient him in the passing game, and feast on the short routes he'll no doubt be throwing (career 6.5 yards per attempt doesn't exactly indicate a strong ability to complete deep passes).

Opponent Defensive Spotlight: DT Alan Branch

What was lost in Seattle's special teams meltdown (two TD returns cost them the game against San Francisco) was an overall impressive defensive performance against the run.

Branch was the key to that.

Some may remember Branch. LaMarr Woodley's teammate at Michigan was actually rated higher than Woodley coming out of college, and was projected by many as a first-round pick. Allegations into poor work ethic dropped him all the way to the second round. Arizona chose not to resign him this off-season and he ended up in Seattle.

He has the physical make-up to be the 3-technique tackle but Arizona had him playing 1-Technique, and never lived up to expectations. Sunday, though, was a step in the right direction, and Branch appears to be playing in the best position for his skills.

He keyed a run defense that held Frank Gore to 2.7 yards per carry, and that is a glaring concern for the Steelers. Particularly with the loss of RT Willie Colon, the Steelers offensive line appears more equipped in run blocking than pass protection, and they will look to establish a strong possession offense Sunday. A big part of their success in that area will be holding Branch at bay. 

Steelers Spotlight: DE Aaron Smith

It wasn't as glorious a return to the starting lineup as the Steelers had hoped when they got Smith back after a triceps tear cost him most of the 2010 season.

In fact, it was probably Smith's worst game in quite a while.

Baltimore ran at will right at Smith, and racked up 170 rushing yards - an unfathomable number last season. But that shot to the heart is exactly why the cagey veteran will respond in Week 2.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is a veteran's coach. He's not going to do anything differently in terms of letting Smith prepare for the game. He'll give him a pat on the butt, tell him Smith's his guy and let him go to work.

But Smith - like every member of this defense - is a proud guy, and won't likely allow a repeat of Week 1.

Part of what he saw in film this week was improper technique. He appeared to come off the ball a bit too high, and allowed his blocker to get underneath him. He didn't have a strong initial step, and it caused him to lose leverage whenever the blocker engaged him. He didn't display good footwork, and because of that, he looked like he was on roller skates for much of the game.

None of those things are characteristic of Smith, and he's going to rebound from it positively. 

Key Stats

  • The Steelers' seven turnovers is the highest total under Tomlin.
  • Baltimore's 117.6 passer rating against Pittsburgh is 44 points higher than the Steelers' passer rating against last season
  • Seattle held San Francisco to just 2.7 yards per carry rushing
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