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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills: Defensive Report Card

It's mid-week and time to put last week's game behind us, but I wanted to give credit where credit is due to our defense. When I think about last year and how frustrating it was, I of course first think about Big Ben and his slew of costly interceptions. Equally frustrating though, was the play of our defense throughout much of the season. We were still fantastic against the run, but we really struggled getting after the quarterback and in pass coverage.

This year, things couldn't be off to a better start for our D. As many sacks as points allowed, 5 takeaways and a +4 TO differential, 3rd in the NFL in yards allowed per game, new defensive alignments from master-mind Dick LeBeau. There's certainly been plenty to get excited about.

Opposing teams have purposefully gone away from Troy Polamalu; that, plus the fact that running backs aren't getting to the second level has meant that Troy only has a handful of tackles through 2 games. That's fine. He leads the team in passes defended, and has been around the football far more than simply his tackle totals suggest. The defensive line continues to impress. As datruth pointed out earlier in the week, LeBeau didn't call on his jumbo package in the trenches, but the D-line still absolutely stymied the Bills running game. I wouldn't be surprised to see the 4-2-5 some this weekend against Frank Gore. I'm pleased with how Keisel and A. Smith have started. I was down on them this offseason--probably too much so for what was warranted--but they both look more active in early action.

The linebackers continue to play well. Woodley was a fantastic draft choice, and Timmons is integrating himself at a sufficiently apt pace given how much time he missed in the preseason.

I'm perhaps most excited about the play of our corners though. Ike Taylor is back, and I'm confident he'll keep it up even as the competition improves. It's DeShea and Bryant I'm more pleasantly surprised with. There have been both supporters and detractors of both these players. The general pulse I picked up on this offseason was that fans were willing to be more patient with the younger McFadden. Townsend, who is 31 already, is playing a lot tougher in both the running and the passing game. Both seemed to be on their heels all the time last year - reacting rather than anticipating. This, to me, will be one of the key developments of 2007. Can the three of these guys keep from giving up the big play like they did so many times last year? If so, lookout league.

For the second straight week, the Steelers Defense collectively looked impressive. For their efforts against the Bills, I'd definitely give the unit an...

Grade: A