Editorials

Steelers Fever – Nickels Are Worth More Than Five Cents Sunday

Nickels Are Worth More Than Five Cents Sunday – By Neal Coolong

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

A Few Facts to consider:
Arrowhead Stadium is a tough place for any team to play, regardless of the Chiefs talent level.
Priest Holmes is one of the best running backs/offensive players in the game.
Kansas revamped their defense this year and looked filthy in Sunday’s win over San Diego.

Why none of this matters:
Priest this and Priest that. Anyone who follows the NFL has probably clued into myriad ways Holmes can disrupt a defense. However, the Chiefs have proved they are a one-dimensional team, both early this season and all of last season.

Pittsburgh stretched their defense to cover a wider area in their zone packages in the nearer half of the field (10 yards from scrimmage and in) to specifically counter the kind of offense Kansas City has (using the short flats to make simple completions, using athletic players to run after the catch. Just look at the Oakland game last year. Same kinds of offenses). They didn’t do it purposefully for this game, mind you, but rather, to begin to shut down the flat and middle passes that haunted them all last year. Holmes is deadly getting the ball in the flats, but with the great speed of the Steelers’ outside linebackers (even Haggans), you won’t see him running free like a deer in Montana.

The Chiefs had a successful rushing attack against San Diego last game, but the ‘Bolts are a very young and permeable defense who have yet to find a leader since the loss of Junior Seau. If one is to look at this game strictly from a personnel standpoint, you will see a smart offensive team (Kansas City) with a great weapon (Holmes) against the best corps of linebackers in football. With Dick Vermeil being the driving force behind that smart offense, it is logical to assume he’ll look at Pittsburgh’s vulnerabilities defensively and see a cornerback (Dewayne Washington) and think he might have a chance to stretch Pittsburgh, and keep the blitzes off. This is where he will be wrong, and this is specifically why Pittsburgh will stop the Chiefs offensively.

They have a greatly improved nickel formation (add in Mike Logan at a linebacker/defensive back position to mirror Holmes wherever he goes) which is, once again, specifically geared to stop the kind of offense Kansas City possesses. While Holmes is no doubt a premier runner, his game is largely effective because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. With Pittsburgh’s new nickel, he will be largely ineffective unless he is able to break 10 tackles a play. With this not working, Vermeil might decide to go up top, and look for Tony Gonzalez down the seam or Johnnie Morton in the corner. The Steelers are still largely able to blitz out of the nickel, forcing longtime average quarterback Trent Green to spend several minutes on his back staring at the sun wondering how No. 97 (Kendrell Bell will be the primary pass rusher out of a packaged blitz in the nickel) got to him so quickly.

Nothing quiets a crowd like a visiting team with a great offense. We didn’t see nearly as many game-breaking offensive plays from Pittsburgh this past week as we will in the future. While I’m not ready to anoint Maddox as the next Dan Marino, he has what it takes to be successful against any defense he faces; the intelligence to know where his stud receivers are going to be at any given time. Chiefs fans can be yelling like it’s Judgement Day, they’ll sit down and shut up after a few Maddox 20 pass to Burress. Reed Kick in the box score. The key for Pittsburgh this week will be to control the clock (God, please give us a running game) and hem Holmes up at the sideline. If they control the flats on defense and run to work the pass, Pittsburgh walks out with a win just like 2001.

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