Posted by Chip Patterson
Pittsburgh has adapted the "high octane" moniker of new head coach Todd Graham, who is well-known for his no-huddle hurry-up offenses. But throughout the fall camp Graham and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson have insisted that the offense won't be the only high-octane aspect of the Panthers this season.
Patterson is installing a new 3-4 defense that will utilize a fourth "Panther linebacker" at times - a hybrid between a defensive end and outside linebacker. Pittsburgh will show all kinds of movement and different looks before the snap with their four linebackers, and use zone blitzes to try and throw off opposing quarterbacks. Patterson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about reaching out to one of the best zone blitz minds in the game of football this offseason.
Luckily, the Panthers' defensive coordinator didn't have to go far for advice.
Patterson said he sat down with the current Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator, the legendary Dick LeBeau, several times this offseason to learn even more about the defense he was preparing to install in fall camp.
"To have the opportunity to sit with him and ask him questions, was really special," Patterson explained. "And some of the things he said reaffirmed what we were doing and some showed me we were missing the boat.
"But the little attention to details of it was amazing. Anyone can run a certain blitz or pressure, but he spoke of the intricacies, the details, some techniques or an alignment, and that is where he really helped us. So I am going to continue to rely on him as resource, and he's the best guy in the business at what he does, so that's huge for us."
Best in the business is right. In 2010 the AFC Champion Steeler defense gave up fewer points and the second-fewest yards of anyone in the NFL. Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley terrorized quarterbacks and combined for 20.5 sacks on the season. There has been talk that defensive end Brandon Lindsey will move to that Panther linebacker position in some packages, unleashing the defensive end who totaled 10 sacks (2nd in the Big East) in 2010.
Expecting Steelers-esque performance from the start is asking a bit much from the Panthers, but there is no doubt that Keith Patterson is using a good model for his new scheme. Pittsburgh has been picked to finish right near the top of the conference, likely battling Backyard Brawl Rival West Virginia for the title once again. Their campaign kicks off Saturday when they play host to Buffalo at 6 p.m..