Posted by Andy Benoit
DALLAS -- Had a chance to chat with Josh Freeman on Friday (he was making the media rounds as part of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute lab that is stationed upstairs from radio row). The conversation centered largely around the lessons he’s learned in his first two years in the NFL. Freeman said that facing more frequent and complex A-gap blitzes was the toughest on-field tactic that he had to learn.
The Steelers just so happen to be one of, if not THE, best fire-X blitzing team in football (fire X is an A-gap blitz in which the inside linebackers crisscross on their way to the quarterback). Freeman offered one of the shrewdest yet simplest observations that has been made this week in Dallas: the Steelers front seven is extra difficult to figure out because the linebackers mix their 90s and 50s jersey numbers.
Normally, defensive linemen are the ones who wear numbers in the 90s. But Steelers outside linebacker James Harrisons is No. 92. And inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is No. 94. (The other starters, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley, are 51 and 56.)
Obviously, it’s easy to tell the difference between all four Steelers linebackers. But when you’re on the field and have a million things going on, it’s a little harder. If your first point of reference is normally a jersey number, and linebackers wearing numbers in the 90s are roving around, those linebackers are going to blend in for a split second. Split seconds are a significant chunk of time in football.
If a media type or outside observer had made this point about jersey numbers, it probably wouldn’t be worth a second thought. Jersey numbers? Really? But when a quarterback who has faced the Steelers brings it up on his own, there’s something to it.
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CBSSports.com's Jason Horowitz also caught up with Freeman:
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