Steelers defense prepared to carry the weight in 2013

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers defense is on the verge of a return to the kind of unit that led the league in total defense and sacks, and was in the top five in takeaways. The road to those statistical achievements begins Sunday against Tennessee.

Boy, you're gonna carry that weight/carry that weight a long time - John Lennon/Paul McCartney

As long as Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, the Steelers have a chance to beat any team in the NFL. That statement is believed by most who follow the Steelers and the NFL.

There have been plenty of times in which Roethlisberger was healthy and stood on the sidelines, like those who cover and/or follow the team, waving a Terrible Towel, and watched the Steelers' defense dominate their opponent.

Not to take anything away from Roethlisberger, but the Steelers defense has been as much a part of the success of this franchise over the nine years of his career as he has.

When both are clicking, watch out.

When the defense is creating turnovers and generating pressure, the Steelers' defense is carrying the weight of the team. And that unit appears better prepared to do that in 2013 than it did in 2012 and 2011.

Depth and health at outside linebacker will be paramount. LaMarr Woodley, when healthy, is one of the more disruptive forces in the league. The utilization of Lawrence Timmons inside and out is dangerous, especially when equipped with heavy-handed and slithery Jarvis Jones. The pair, along with Larry Foote sprinkled in, will attack the A gap and force quarterbacks out of the pocket - or right into the edge rush.

All that rhetoric is fun to discuss - and write about - just hours before kickoff. This is the kind of stuff, though, that's been giving the Steelers defense confidence for nearly a decade - and longer.

As Foote told Post Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette in Friday's edition, "The experience our young guys got last year. Just the growth of those guys. And I think we're loaded at corner, there are five of them who can play for us.

"We need Jason Worilds, Steve McLendon and Jarvis Jones to fill big shoes, but I think those guys are capable of doing it. I think we'll be better than last year, just off experience."

Experience and explosion. Both will be on display Sunday as the Steelers take on the Titans in the first opportunity this defense has to shed the recent lack of big plays.

The first opportunity to once again carry that weight.

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