SI Vault
Peter King
September 30, 2002
Reverse FieldOffensive-minded coach Mike Shanahan can thank his deep, cat-quick defense for the Broncos' 3-0 start
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September 30, 2002

The Nfl

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The biggest reason for the Steelers' 0-2 start is the defense's inability to stop the pass. The Patriots and the Raiders passed Pittsburgh silly, but the seed for such an attack was planted last Dec. 30 when the Bengals threw 68 times against the Steelers in a 23-20 overtime win. The Raiders went to school on that game, which is why Oakland's Rich Gannon threw 63 times (for 403 yards) in a 30-17 win over the Steelers on Sept. 15.

So what can the Steelers do to counter the air assault? For starters they can play better on offense. Last season Pittsburgh led the league in time of possession, at more than 34 minutes a game, but this year the offense has controlled the ball an average of 26 minutes. In 27 possessions the Steelers have turned the ball over 10 times. If quarterback Kordell Stewart struggles early this Sunday against the Browns, don't be surprised to see coach Bill Cowher turn to backup Tommy Maddox.

Defensively, Pittsburgh needs to put more heat on the quarterback The Steelers have only seven sacks in 115 dropbacks, and opposing quarterbacks have a healthy 67% completion rate partly because they haven't been pressured. Outside linebacker Jason Gildon, who led the team in sacks last year with 12, has yet to get to the quarterback.

" Coach Cowher says we play better with a chip on our shoulder," safety Lee Flowers says. "We have to play with that meanness, and we haven't been." The good news for Pittsburgh fans: Only one of the Steelers' next 12 foes—the rebuilding Ravens—was a playoff team in 2001.


Brady Earns Chiefs' Respect

The Patriots' Tom Brady didn't see two of his four touchdown passes in a career-best 410-yard passing day against the Chiefs, because he was drilled into the ground the instant he threw. "I've got a ton of respect for that guy," said Chiefs linebacker Mike Maslowski after New England's 41-38 overtime win. "A few times we hit him as hard as you can, but it didn't seem to affect him."

...Bills defensive end Chidi Ahanotu is living in Toronto and has hired a driver at $5,000 per month to take him back and forth to Buffalo (a 90-minute commute each way), so he can live in an internationally diverse city. "I wanted to see what there was in this world other than the American view of things," says Ahanotu, a California native....

Panthers defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio says the Vikings' Randy Moss "may be causing defensive staffs to spend more time game-planning than any player in the history of the league." Ten of Daunte Culpepper's 30 attempts in Minnesota's 21-14 loss to Carolina—including three of four interceptions—were intended for Moss, who had four catches for 16 yards.

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