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Five ways to attack the Steelers defense

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer

1. Identify where safety Troy Polamalu is at all times. The guy is a not only disruptive; he's the best defensive player on the field. Aaron Rodgers' first responsibility is to identify potential pass rushers, and Polamalu is a tough read. He plays close to the line but is able to drop into coverage. He's also able to rush the passer or run down plays from behind. In short, he's aggressive, and he's a playmaker. So remember to identify where he is with pre-snap reads.

2. Don't be afraid to practice misdirection. The Steelers are so aggressive that they can overrun plays, which means they can be vulnerable to counters and bootlegs. Look how the New York Jets scored a game-tying TD in December: Mark Sanchez ran a naked bootleg to his left, and there was nothing there. So get the flow going in one direction, then break the play to the backside. You may find an opening.

3. Don't try to block James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley with a tight end on the line. The Packers probably won't, anyway. They like to protect with a tight end inside, lined up behind the line of scrimmage, and a back to the outside. That can widen the field, which is critical with these guys. You don't want them taking the short route off the corner. So make them go long distance, and make them have to get over more than one speed bump.

4. Look for the weak corner. In the AFC championship game the Steelers locked Ike Taylor on Santonio Holmes, and it worked reasonably well. My guess is that Taylor will cover Greg Jennings most, if not all, of Sunday's game. So find a way to beat Bryant McFadden and William Gay. The Packers have the ammunition in Donald Driver and James Jones. The Packers' passing game is all about timing, so disrupting that timing is critical. You can do that by getting physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage, but Pittsburgh is not a man-to-man team. They'll zone the Packers and try to beat them with the pass rush. Make sure you find their weak links before the pass rush gets to Rodgers.

5. Attack the middle of the field. More specifically, attack safety Ryan Clark. He's a sitting duck when Polamalu moves close to the line of scrimmage. The Steelers are aggressive on defense and will take chances -- especially Polamalu. But that means there's a risk, and the risk is that plays can be made in the middle of the field. That's not a knock on Clark. It's just that he has a lot of real estate to cover.


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