Joe Greene had a message for the Steelers locker room prior to Sunday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
“Play Steeler football,” linebacker James Harrison said was the message.
And what’s more Steeler football than good linebacker play?
A defense built on outside linebackers who can pass rush and inside guys who can do just about a little bit of everything, the Steelers dusted off that model during Sunday’s 43-23 AFC North win over the Ravens at Heinz Field.
“We felt that this was coming,” linebacker Jason Worilds said. “The more times we get opportunities to make plays, we are going to make it. We just need to execute — execute and be consistent.”
The Steelers defense put together one of its best games of the year Sunday night against Baltimore, and it was by no coincidence that an active group of linebackers had a lot to do with it.
• Arthur Moats: Moats forced a fumble of Lorenzo Taliaferro that led to the Steelers’ first score to go with a sack, a tackle for loss and quarterback hit.
• Jason Worilds: He intercepted Joe Flacco and returned it 30 yards that set up another Steelers touchdown.
• Lawrence Timmons: Finished with 11 tackles, a tackle for a loss, two quarterback hits and a sack.
• James Harrison: He had two sacks, seven tackles and four quarterback hits.
“The thing is, we believe in each other,” Timmons said. “We are just trying to get better each and every week and attack it.”
The Steelers came into Sunday’s game with the Ravens with seven sacks by their linebackers and with defensive ends Cam Heyward and Brett Keisel leading the team in quarterback hurries.
In Dick LeBeau’s scheme, outside linebackers need to put pressure on the quarterback for the defense to be successful.
The last three times the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl — 2005, ’08 and ’10 — they had a combined 19.5, 27.5 and 20.5 by their starting outside linebackers.
If the Steelers want to reach the NFL elite again, opposing quarterbacks need to get uncomfortable.
“We wanted to put pressure on Flacco and make him uncomfortable,” Harrison said. “There still are a lot of things that we need to clean up.”
Worilds has been doing his part of late.
Worilds, who signed a nearly $10 million transition tag in the spring after a seven-sack second-half of 2013, has been playing at a high level the past three games.
Worilds had seven quarterback hurries against the Texans two weeks ago and knocked down Colts quarterback Andrew Luck three times last week. The Steelers won both of the games.
“I feel good,” Worilds said.
Harrison has been the biggest surprise.
The Steelers lured him out of retirement after Jarvis Jones broke his wrist during Week 3. After struggling for a month, Harrison seems to be regaining a least a portion of the form that led him to being one of the most feared outside rush linebackers in Steelers history.
Harrison didn’t have a sack his first four games but now has five in his last three games, including two each of the past two games.
“I am still trying to work myself back into shape and back playing more and more snaps,” Harrison said.