Notebook: Playmakers emerging on Steelers defense
The Steelers defense used to struggle to find playmakers. Suddenly, two have emerged.
Left defensive end Aaron Smith has one sack in each of the first three games and is threatening to become the first lineman since Gerald Williams in 1990 to lead the team in that category. Cornerback Chad Scott has returned two interceptions for 88 total yards, and he led the team in tackles (11) against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Smith said keeping his hit streak alive will be difficult.
‘You get five or six in this defense, and that’s considered a good year,’ he said. ‘But I’m bigger and stronger. I’m sure that helps a lot. I can tell that’s helped a lot in the run game.’
Smith gave some of the credit to Steelers defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, whose defense is ranked third in the league.
‘Tim is calling a lot of stuff that is helping us get up field a lot more and be a little more aggressive,’ he said. Plus, Lewis isn’t as quick with the hook. ‘They’re letting me play on third down,’ Smith said. ‘Last year, I only played first and second most of the time.’
While acknowledging his big-play ability, Scott is just as proud of his comeback from major reconstructive knee surgery in 1998. ‘It doesn’t bother me at all,’ he said of the knee. ‘There are not many corners in the league playing who had reconstructive knee surgery, so, I’m definitely blessed.’
Scott downplayed his effort against the Bengals, noting that their receivers were blocking safeties, leaving him free to make plays.
‘Last game is over and I’m moving forward now.’
But he agreed with an assessment that he equally is capable of supporting the run defense as running with fleet pass catchers.
‘I’m a football player,’ he said. ‘I’m not just a cornerback.’
Strong safety Lee Flowers practiced for the first time since injuring his knee in Buffalo nearly two weeks ago and declared himself able to return.
‘One-hundred percent, ready to roll,’ he said.
Trainers have offered Flowers a brace, but he doesn’t plan to use it.
Running back Jerome Bettis (knee), outside linebacker Jason Gildon (ankle) and wide receiver Hines Ward (toe) took the day off, but remain probable on the injury list.
CHIEFS STILL HURTING
The Chiefs might be without starting wide receiver Derrick Alexander, who is questionable with a back injury. Meanwhile, returner Dante Hall and fullback Tony Richardson are doubtful with shoulder injuries
Only two players from the 1993 Chiefs-Steelers playoff game will play Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium: Chiefs guard Will Shields and long snapper Kendall Gammon, who was with the Steelers at the time. The Chiefs won, 27-24, in overtime.
BY THE NUMBERS
Quarterback Kordell Stewart, whose career passing percentage was 54.4 coming into the season, is completing passes at a 61.4 rate this season.
Former Pitt quarterback John Turman, signed by the Steelers as an undrafted rookie in April and released in June, had a tryout with the Washington Redskins. The Redskins also worked out Ron Powlus and Jim Druckenmiller. Former Steelers quarterback Kent Graham is the primary backup to Redskins starter Tony Banks.
STEELERES LOSE SUNDAY NIGHT GAME
The Steelers-Browns game which had been scheduled for Sept. 16 will be played Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field. The game was postponed as the result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and would have been the first regular-season professional game played at Heinz Field.