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Steelers Defense Striving To Regain 2008 Form

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Steelers FS Ryan Clark thinks highly of the Steelers defense in the 2008 season, a unit that led the league in scoring at 13.9 points per game.

He told Tribune-Review reporter Alan Robinson "I don't remember that defense doing much wrong, but last year's defense, even though we were No. 1, it didn't look like that and that's what we are striving for."

Statistically, the Steelers' 2011 defense ranked No. 1 in scoring, giving up 14.5 points per game, but the lack of takeaways - just 15 in 16 games - provided the feeling to which Clark is referring.

It just didn't feel like it.

Through three preseason games, for whatever it's worth, it's starting to feel a little closer to the past.

Even without OLB James Harrison's pass rush and propensity to force fumbles, the Steelers' defensive units have accounted for seven takeaways already. A secondary unit that was responsible for just nine interceptions all season has six heading into Thursday's final preseason game vs. Carolina.

Preseason may not count for anything, but the results are still apparent. This defense is showing both the desire and the ability to cause turnovers. And that's what the 2008 team did, causing 29 of them en route to a 12-4 overall record.

And all of it is being done without Harrison. While the lack of a healthy and productive Harrison wouldn't improve any team, it's the development of the younger players that will make a big difference.

Clark and SS Troy Polamalu noted in Robinson's article players like DE Ziggy Hood, NT Steve McLendon and CB Cortez Allen as having expanded roles in the defense, and living up to the expectations of those roles.

Knocking the Steelers' defense for its average age of 30 years is one thing, discounting the younger players who have learned from those who came before them is another.

Talk is just talk until the season starts, but if the younger players can live up to the standard set before them, there's no reason to think this Steelers defense can't be just as good as the units that proceeded it.