Tag:Jason Worilds
Posted on: November 2, 2011 10:51 am
Edited on: November 4, 2011 9:37 am
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Film Room: Steelers vs. Ravens preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The greatest rivalry in today’s NFL is renewed Sunday night when Baltimore travels to Pittsburgh. Though both teams have drifted towards being pass-oriented offenses, these smashmouth defenses can still make this game the type of fistfight we’ve all come to love. Here’s a look at two of the league’s meanest, most successful defensive units.

1. Baltimore’s philosophy
The Ravens are not as geared towards Byzantine blitzes as they were during the Rex Ryan years. New coordinator Chuck Pagano is more inclined to use a four-man front in nickel and let pass-rushers Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger use their strength/speed combination on the edges.

This isn’t to say Pagano won’t blitz; he still brings some heat with inside linebackers and slot corners. But he uses stunts and the dominance of Haloti Ngata to generate individual matchups for guys outside. This creates similar end results to what Dick LeBeau does with his zone blitzes.


2. Pittsburgh’s philosophy
The zone blitz’s basic principle is getting pressure on the quarterback without sacrificing bodies in coverage. About half the time a zone blitz is actually a zone exchange, which means four pass-rushers who are coming from untraditional spots (say three rushers on one side and just one on the other, for example).

A lot of Pittsburgh’s blitzes are determined by the offense’s receiver distribution. This is a versatile approach that requires smart, experienced defenders, particularly in the defensive backfield where the coverage is usually a matchup-zone concept. Matchup zones require defenders to pass wide receivers off to one another. The Steelers and Ravens both do this extremely well.

As for Pittsburgh’s blitzes themselves, the goal is not to get pass-rushers in clean – though that’s certainly nice when it happens – but rather, to get LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison in one-on-one matchups against running backs or tight ends. The Steelers do this by overloading their attack to one side of the formation or, sometimes, aligning both Woodley and Harrison on the same side. Doing this can compel an offense to keep its running back in to pass protect, which can be a nice way to nullify a dangerous receiving threat (like, say Ray Rice).

Of course, Woodley and Harrison are likely both out this Sunday. That’s huge, especially if Jason Worilds (an unknown but gifted second-year pro who is potentially the next great Steeler outside linebacker) remains on the shelf with a quad injury. Deepening the damage is that inside linebacker James Farrior is also out. Farrior is great at timing his blitzes in a way that jars blockers and creates one-on-one matchups for others.

3. The safeties
A lot of defensive schemes look good when there’s a future first ballot Hall of Famer at safety. Ed Reed is a ridiculously smart, ridiculously rangy free safety who takes chances that no other players could take. He’s a centerfielder who’s capable of swooping into the box. Troy Polamalu is a ridiculously smart, ridiculously explosive strong safety who also takes chances that no other players could take. Polamalu is a box defender who’s capable of flying back into centerfield.

As a quarterback you obviously have to know where these safeties are at all times. Usually this kind of knowledge can tip you off as to what the defense is running. But Reed’s and Polamalu’s range allows them to disguise and redirect their intentions after the snap. Thus, the main reason a quarterback must focus on them is simply to avoid a turnover.

Something to keep in mind: Reed and Polamalu allow their respective defenses to be great in different ways. But their defenses also allow THEM be great. Neither could freelance as much as they do if not for playing with trustworthy teammates who consistently execute their own assignments.

4. Defensive Lines
On a similar note, great defenses always control the trenches. So much of defensive schemes are built around defending the pass. But effective blitzes or coverage designs are rendered moot if the offense can ram the ball down your throat. The Steelers have a stalwart nose tackle in Casey Hampton flanked by active defensive ends who can occupy two blockers by playing with strong east and west movement.

This is critical because the congestion these players create allows the linebackers to attack the run cleanly. In case there’s any doubt about how important the ends are to Pittsburgh’s scheme, recognize that GM Kevin Colbert spent his ’09 first-round pick on Ziggy Hood and his ’11 first-round pick on Cameron Heyward.

The Ravens linebackers also attack the run cleanly thanks to a potent defensive front. Baltimore’s defensive front goes about things slightly differently, though. While Pittsburgh’s ends are more athletic and aim to create congestion via movement, Baltimore’s ends are more powerful and aim to create congestion via penetration.

The emergence of nose tackle Terrence Cody has been critical this season. Cody is a load with some burst. He struggles to hold ground against double teams, but at least he’s drawing the double teams. His doing so gives Chuck Pagano more freedom in the way he uses Haloti Ngata, the most destructive defensive lineman in football.



5. Unheralded superstars
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed command a lot of headlines – and understandably so. And Ngata, deservedly, gets more recognition with each passing week. But the best player on Baltimore’s defense may just be Terrell Suggs. Because the ninth-year pro has never led the league in sacks, people assume he’s merely a good player.

But Suggs’ sack numbers don’t show that he’s the best run-defending outside ‘backer in the league, playside or backside. And they don’t show how he physically wears down an opponent over the course of a game. Suggs moves like a gazelle but, when engaged in a phone booth, has the power of a rhino.

The Steelers also have a first-class star flying under the radar: Ike Taylor. It’s mind-boggling that the 31-year-old cornerback did not draw more interest on the open market this past offseason. Taylor often defends the opposing team’s top receiver man-to-man while the rest of the defense play zone.

Last week he held Wes Welker to six catches for 39 yards, which is remarkable considering Taylor is not too accustom to lining up over the slot. The week before, he held Larry Fitzgerald to four catches for 78 yards. Taylor often shows up on TV for the wrong reasons – penalties and dropped interceptions – but he shows up on film as the key to Pittsburgh’s coverages.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 9 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 9:47 pm
 

Tomlin says Woodley is questionable

WoodleyPosted by Josh Katzowitz

First, we thought Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and the hamstring he injured last Sunday was out for this week’s game vs. the Ravens.

But Woodley has said all along that we shouldn’t count him out, and now Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is echoing those same sentiments.

“It’s a hamstring strain as opposed to a tear so we’re thankful for that,” Tomlin said on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via PFT). “We’re going to let his availability during the week guide us.  I guess you could characterize him as ‘questionable.’  At some point this week he’s going to participate in some form or fashion and we’ll let that be our guide in terms of his availability.”

The Steelers have to hope he’ll be back soon. James Harrison has been missing with an eye injury, and James Farrior might be out until December with a calf injury. Woodley’s backup, Jason Worilds, also has missed time, and though the Ravens offense has been criticized for looking unimpressive lately, even Joe Flacco can dominate a team that has very little in the way of defensive starters.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, meanwhile, has reported that Woodley's hamstring is "not good."

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:02 pm
 

Report: LaMarr Woodley to miss Ravens game

Woodley has been a one-man sacking crew for the Steelers the last month of the season. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley will not play Sunday night against the Ravens, a source tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac. Woodley injured his hamstring in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Patriots. Until his departure, he had harassed New England quarterback Tom Brady all afternoon, sacking him twice.

Through the first four weeks of the season, Woodley had just 1.5 sacks but has been on a tear since. He's registered 7.5 sacks the last month, which coincides with how long linebacker James Harrison has been sidelined with an eye injury. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Harrison probably won't return to face the Ravens. He tweeted Monday that "Saw the doctor today. Looks like I won't be playing this weekend but at least I'm cleared for practice."

Exacerbating things for Pittsburgh: inside linebacker James Farrior could be out until mid-December with a calf injury, and Harrison's backup, Jason Worilds, has missed time with a quadriceps injury.

Woodley said after the Pats victory that he would play against Baltimore but that appears to have changed. While a source tell the Post-Gazette that Woodley's hamstring is "not good," he doesn't sound like a guy who will be sidelined for a while.


"Everybody counting me out," Woodley said from the training room Tuesday. "Don't count me out yet."

During his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Woodley's status will be determined by how much he's able to practice this week.

There's a chance the Steelers could start rookie Chris Carter, second-year player Stevenson Sylvester and veterans Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons. Timmons' natural position is inside, but he has replaced Harrison on the outside the last four games.  Not exactly the lineup you'd choose to face Baltimore, but if it's good enough for the Pats then it might be good enough for the Ravens, too.

The Steelers could also be without wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who Tomlin said Tuesday will need his knee examined. Sanders' knee is nothing next to the news he tweeted Tuesday morning: his mother had passed away.

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Posted on: October 4, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 12:55 pm
 

Harrison out with orbital injury, Ben might play

James Harrison won't play against the Titans, and he may be out for a while. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin gets points for honesty. During his weekly Tuesday press conference, he pretty much laid it out there: "We're gonna need the support of our fans."

He mentioned this in reference to the team's slow start, but also fresh off the news that the Steelers will be without outside linebacker James Harrison, who suffered a right orbital fracture around his eye socket in the loss to the Texans (it may have happened on the play in the video below), for "a number of weeks." It gets worse: Harrison's backup, 2010 second-round pick Jason Worilds, is listed as doubtful with a quadriceps injury.

So the plan, at least for now, is to move inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons into Harrison's position and have veteran Larry Foote start inside next to James Farrior. Tomlin also said that rookie Chris Carter and second-year linebacker Stevenson Sylvester could also see time. 

We've previously documented that the offensive line is in shambles, so much so that last Sunday quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left Reliant Stadium in a walking boot and on crutches. If there's a silver lining, it's that X-rays on Roethlisberger's foot showed that it wasn't broken, just sprained.

"It may limit him early in the week but we expect him participate in this football game," Tomlin said.


Given how the first month of the season has unfolded, and under the current circumstances, having Roethlisberger on the field might be the Steelers' best chance at winning, even at Heinz Field. The problem, of course, is that if the offensive line goes pass-blocking optional, Big Ben might leave the game in pieces.

If the Titans are one of the early surprises of the 2011 season, the Steelers are certainly one of the most disappointing, and some of that can be traced to injuries. But as Lou Holtz once said, "Don't tell people your problems -- half of them don't care and the other half are glad you got 'em."

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Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:02 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 11:03 pm
 

James Harrison still not at full strength

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Steelers have an amazing knack for stocking their roster with quality players and not just the first-round picks. Late-round selections, undrafted free agents and cast-offs from other organizations all seem to find their niche in Pittsburgh. It helps explain how they've made three Super Bowl appearances in the last six years.

Despite all the successes, there are weaknesses. Most cited: the offensive line and the secondary, specifically depth at cornerback. Never, ever mentioned: the linebackers, particularly the outside linebackers.

But that's changing, even if temporarily. For now, we can add one of the Steelers' best players -- and one of the best linebackers in the league -- as a weakness, both figuratively and literally.

James Harrison, the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, had two back surgeries this the offseason. That, coupled with a lockout that prevented players from participating in OTAs and minicamps, means he's not yet in football shape -- and worse -- not yet at full strength, which is sort of important given his job description.

This was painfully evident during the Steelers' Week 3 preseason game against the Falcons. After flushing Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan from the pocket, Harrison appeared to run out of gas mid-sprint, slowed to a jog and eventually a brisk walk before the play was over. In the scheme of things it barely merited a mention … until you remember that this is James Harrison. His motor is always running.

Well, even a player as tenacious as Harrison is no match for dual back surgeries.

"He's not where he wants to be, he'll tell you that," linebackers coach Keith Butler told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's not where he usually is before a season. He's usually in better shape than anybody, but the back surgery slowed him down a little."

Head coach Mike Tomlin has limited Harrison's practice reps, which has also affected his conditioning. "It fatigues you a lot faster, especially when you're trying to deal with an injury, and it really fatigued me out there, I'm not going to lie," Harrison said. "That's something that comes with the territory."

More Steelers News

Harrison, who was cut by the Steelers and Ravens before finally sticking in Pittsburgh, is 33 and entering his eighth season. Given his intensity, it's also no surprise that he's frustrated by his current situation.

"It's more trying to get into game shape, trying to get your back to hold up the same as it did on the first play as it will the last play," he said. "That's something that will come with time. The longer I'm out there, the more I get reps in games, the better it will get.

"We got a lot more plays this week than we did last week, and I feel about the same as I did last week. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it was a lot more plays this week than last week and I feel about the same, so it's headed in the right direction."

Harrison, like most Steelers starters, isn't expected to play against the Panthers Thursday. That means that 2010 second-rounder Jason Worilds will get another opportunity to prove that he can fill in if needed, although he doesn't yet appear to be nearly the player LaMarr Woodley (a '07 second-rounder) was entering his second season.

The good news is that Harrison will be back to his normal menacing self. "I anticipate playing and eventually, yeah, I'll get to full strength," he said. "But, when that will be, I don't know."

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Posted on: August 10, 2010 9:58 am
Edited on: August 10, 2010 10:09 am
 

Hot Routes 8.10.2010

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Got a link for the Hot Routes? Follow us on Twitter or email josh.katzowitz@cbs.com.

--The Steelers don’t have much depth at outside linebacker. Which is why they drafted Jason Worilds in the second round and Thaddeus Gibson in the fourth round. Still, through a combination of problems , Pittsburgh isn’t getting much production from those two.

--Ravens safety Dawan Landry has been flat-out hurting people in training camp. He busted Willis McGahee’s lip and he smashed Derrick Mason so hard that Mason sprained his ankle. Without crazy-man FS Ed Reed in the lineup for the time being, Landry is exactly what Baltimore needs in its shredded defensive back corps. 

--The Dolphins released a preseason depth chart, and there a couple of interesting decisions on there. For one, Joe Berger is ahead of Jake Grove for starting center. Brian Hartline is listed as a starting WR. Chad Pennington is fourth-string QB behind Tyler Thigpen and Pat White. ESPN.com cautions none of this means much of anything yet.

--Jets coach Rex Ryan admits he made a mistake last year placing Vernon Gholston at outside linebacker. Gholston has been an absolute bust since New York took him in the first round of the 2008 draft – come to think of it, maybe we should wait at least one more year before giving him the big ol’ bust label, though Gholston has been pretty bad – but Ryan says he’s really excited about Gholston’s prospects this season. 

--Dolphins CEO Mike Dee wrote a letter to Miami’s fans and posted it on the team’s web site , apologizing for canceling Monday’s practice at Sun Life Stadium. Take it easy, Mike. I don’t think fans will blame you for the weather. Still, a class move from Dee.

--What will it be like when the Patriots and Saints hold a joint practice today? The Boston Herald has the FAQ and the answers . There won’t be a scrimmage, but the two teams will work together in individual drills and some down-and-distance situations. 

--The Browns players have 17 active Twitter accounts, but after Brandon McDonald’s crude Tweets in the past, the Cleveland organization will be paying a watchful eye at how the rest of the Browns participate in the social media world. Mangini, though, admits that he doesn’t expect his players to stop using Twitter

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