Eagles brace for Steelers blitz

Dick LeBeau is the man behind the Pittsburgh defense.
Dick LeBeau is the man behind the Pittsburgh defense. (AP)
Posted: October 07, 2012

The preparation in the offensive meeting room this week for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers might have seemed familiar to the Eagles. The schemes they watched come close to what they saw two weeks earlier when they prepared for the Arizona Cardinals.

The Eagles left Arizona two weeks ago embarrassed and embittered after the Cardinals defense overwhelmed quarterback Michael Vick - and the entire offense - in the Eagles' worst performance of the season. The architect of Arizona's defense is Ray Horton, a second-year defensive coordinator who came from Pittsburgh and whose defensive philosophy can be traced to famed Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau.

"They're similar," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Ray comes from that Dick LeBeau school. They are good friends, and they talk and share ideas with one another. They are very, very similar to each other defensively."

LeBeau, a Hall of Famer whose second stint as the Steelers' defensive coordinator began in 2004, oversees a 3-4 alignment that features zone blitzes. It is a scheme that LeBeau helped popularize in which the blitzers overload the offensive line in an effort to outnumber and flummox blockers.

"They do a lot with their blitz scheme," Vick said. "We just want to make sure they're comfortable with what they're doing. Obviously, they can change it up at any point. We just have to make sure we take care of our responsibilities and account for each and every guy."

That was an issue against the Cardinals, particularly on the final play of the first half, when Vick fumbled after he was sacked on a blitz by a defensive back who was unaccounted for. Vick was sacked five times and hit 13 times that game.

Considering how overmatched Vick looked - and how poorly the Eagles played - it's fair to wonder whether it's a scheme Vick and the Eagles might struggle against. But Vick believed the Cardinals game helped the Eagles prepare this week.

"We learned a lot from the Arizona game," Vick said. "We feel that although it's different personnel, different coaching - and they can change anything - I think the overall experience helped us to become a better football team. Sometimes in a loss like that, you can learn a lot. Doesn't mean things are going to change dramatically. But we certainly feel good about our game plan and what we're doing."

The Steelers will also benefit from the return of two former defensive players of the year: safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison. They've thrived in LeBeau's defense. The players on Pittsburgh's defense are older, but they have more experience and more success in the zone-blitz scheme than the Cardinals.

The Eagles were also trying to introduce two new offensive linemen - Demetress Bell and Dallas Reynolds - on the road against Arizona. On Sunday, Reynolds will make his third consecutive start. Bell is expected to remain the No. 1 left tackle even though King Dunlap's hamstring has improved. But issues with noise and disguised blitzes still will be present, just as they were two weeks ago.

The Steelers were 7-1 at Heinz Field last year and are 35-10 there the last five seasons. Their lone win this season came at home.

Vick has played one game in Pittsburgh, a 34-34 tie in November 2002 while he was with the Falcons. LeBeau wasn't the Steelers' defensive coordinator at the time.

"You have to have the right mind-set to go in there and win," Vick said. "You have to have a great group of guys who believe in themselves, first and foremost, if you want to win."

Extra points. Linebacker Akeem Jordan has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. Jamar Chaney will start his second consecutive game at weakside linebacker. . . . Safety Colt Anderson (knee), Dunlap (hamstring), and defensive tackle Derek Landri (knee) are questionable, but Reid said he thinks "they'll be ready to go." . . . Wide receiver Riley Cooper might make his season debut after missing the last two months with a broken collarbone. Reid said Cooper is healthy enough to play, so his status will be based on whether Reid wants to activate him.


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|