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News » Offense keeps facing formidable foes STEELERS NOTEBOOK

Offense keeps facing formidable foes STEELERS NOTEBOOK

Offense keeps facing formidable foes STEELERS NOTEBOOK
Maybe the Steelers' offense, which ranks 24th in the NFL, isn't that bad, after all.

Maybe, just maybe, it's because the unit keeps going against some of the top defenses in the league.

For the third consecutive game, the Steelers will face one of the top-ranked defenses Sunday when they play the Tennessee Titans, who rank fourth in the NFL in total defense.

Last week, it was the Baltimore Ravens, who have the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL behind the Steelers. The week before, it was the Dallas Cowboys, who have the seventh-ranked defense.

"And we won those games," said receiver Hines Ward.

In addition to the Titans, Ravens and Cowboys, the Steelers also have faced three other defenses ranked among the top seven -- No. 3 Philadelphia, No. 5 Washington and the No. 6 New York Giants.

"Between who we're playing and usually the conditions we're playing in, it's tough," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "That's what is nice about having a quarterback who can throw the Football in the snow, wind and rain. If you don't have that, you're really at your wits end trying to move the ball against those style of defenses."

Curiously, the only game in which the Steelers gained more than 300 yards against those teams was in the 13-9 comeback victory Sunday in Baltimore -- a performance helped by the winning, 92-yard scoring drive in the final two minutes. That was also the only game against those teams in which the Steelers' offense managed more yards (311) than the opponent (202) against the Steelers' No. 1 defense.

Still, the Steelers are 4-2 in those games.

"When we go up against these teams with good defenses, we definitely have a chip on our shoulder," said inside linebacker James Farrior. "We definitely want to outplay them. We know that's not the most important part of game; the most important thing is winning. But we definitely want to outplay their defense."

Enemy faces are familiar

Center Justin Hartwig already has gone through his reunion with the Titans, the team that drafted him in the sixth round in 2002.

He got to return to Nashville, where he played for four seasons, when the Carolina Panthers lost to the Titans, 20-7, last year.

Nonetheless, Hartwig said it will still be a strange feeling when he faces his former team.

"It definitely will be nostalgic for me, but I played there last year so I'm going to get all the distractions out of the way," Hartwig said. "I know a lot of people back in that city and all the people who work in that facility.

"I have so many memories there. I played there four years, played a lot of games there, and I'm sort of tight with the offensive line coach there [Mike Munchak]. It's just weird because all the people you know and fought with are on the other sideline. And I remember last year, you look over there and it's a strange feeling, knowing that the guys you went to war with you're now going against."

Keisel pushing to return

Defensive end Brett Keisel practiced for the second consecutive day and tested his previously injured left knee even more vigorously than he did Wednesday, hoping to see if it can stand up to playing Sunday.

It would be the first game back for Keisel, who has missed the past three games with a sprained left knee. Keisel will wear a protective brace on that knee.

Tomlin would have gone for it

The Steelers were prepared to go for a touchdown on fourth down in Baltimore if the officials didn't overturn the call on Santonio Holmes' 4-yard touchdown with 43 seconds remaining.

But coach Mike Tomlin never confirmed that when he was asked on two separate occasions this week by members of the Pittsburgh media -- once after the game and again during his weekly Tuesday news conference.

When he appeared on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption yesterday and was asked the same question -- would he have gone for the winning touchdown or kicked the tying field goal? -- Tomlin provided the answer for a national television audience.

"I think you have got to go for the victory under those circumstances," he said. "We've been in a bunch of battles, we're battle-tested, we're trying to win the division title on the road. You can't sneak into the back door under these circumstances. You have to go in the front door.

"I think, at that point, we're going to be prepared to go for it on fourth down, unless we got a ridiculous spot that put the ball further out than we anticipated."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 19, 2008

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