Wednesday, October 30, 2013

McDaniels: Steelers make you earn it downfield


The Pittsburgh Steelers' uncharacteristically-bad start to the 2013 season hasn't been due to a lack of defense.

Despite sitting at 2-5, the Steelers are giving up the second-fewest passing yards per game and are surrendering fewer than 22 points a game. They're ranked fourth overall in total defense.

Much of their success on that side of the ball can be attributed to an old habit -- a knack for preventing the big play.

"They don’t give up a lot of big plays and they never have," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday, via "They make you work for it all the way down the field, make you convert third downs, convert red zone and that’s how they normally end up in the top of the league in defense.

"I don’t think this year is really any different."

Through eight weeks, though including a bye, Pittsburgh has given up the fewest 20-plus-yard passing plays with just 12. The Steelers have, however struggled with turnovers, having snagged just four interceptions.

The Patriots' offense, on the other hand, has struggled to generate big plays through the air. Tom Brady is averaging fewer than three passing plays of 20 yards or more per game, and only one team in the NFL -- the Jacksonville Jaguars -- has a lower third-down percentage than New England. All that aside, the Patriots are 6-2.

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