PITTSBURGH (AP) -When defensive end Aaron Smith was injured in December, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't need to download statistics or watch game video to understand what his absence meant. Four losses in their final five games told them.
A season later, they are dealing with a similarly troublesome injury only a couple of weeks into the season. Their 3-4 defense relies on the two defensive ends to create pass-rushing lanes for the linebackers and to be strong against the run. Yet the Steelers may be without Brett Keisel (calf) for a month or more.
The Steelers (2-0) will be missing Keisel on Sunday when they go against quarterback Donovan McNabb, running back Brian Westbrook and a Philadelphia offense that has scored an NFC-leading 75 points in two games. McNabb has thrown for 642 yards and four touchdowns and Westbrook has rushed for three touchdowns and an average of nearly 75 yards per game.
nds), who resembles McNabb (6-2, 240) in size but has yet to match him in accomplishments.
``I think the worst thing to do is try to compensate, try to do too much (without Keisel), so I'll just go out there and play my game and let those guys take care of their jobs,'' Smith said, referring to backup ends Nick Eason and Orpheus Roye.
While it has only been two games, the Steelers are encouraged because they are getting more interceptions and sacks, which they lacked a season ago despite being the NFL's top-ranked defense.
The Steelers already have four interceptions, seven fewer than they had in all of 2007. Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu has two interceptions in two games after not having one for nearly two years. The Steelers also are tied for fourth with 14 sacks in two games; they had only 36 last season, one of their lowest totals in 20 years.
If the Steelers can regularly pressure McNabb, it may create second-and-long and third-and-long situations that will limit the Eagles' ability to feed the ball regularly to Westbrook, who is averaging 131.4 yards from scrimmage in his last eight games against AFC teams.
``We're going to go in there and we're going to put pressure on the quarterback,'' linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. ``We're going to hit the quarterback a few times and hopefully he'll make some bad decisions and make a turnover.''
on their defense said so, is get too caught up in what McNabb is doing and ignore Westbrook coming out of the backfield. Westbrook scored three times in the Eagles' 41-37 loss at Dallas on Monday night, twice as a rusher and once as a receiver.
``You've got to know where he's at every time,'' linebacker Larry Foote said. ``A lot of times as a linebacker you can just drop back and stay in your zone, but not with him on the field. You've got to stay close, and everybody has got to stay focused on him because he can make the first guy miss.''
Similarly, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is seeing considerable pressure as defenses test a reconfigured offensive line that allowed 47 sacks last season. Roethlisberger was sacked a manageable four times by the Texans and Browns, but he still expects the Eagles to come at him regularly.
``I think what they're trying to do is exploit what they think is a weak offensive line,'' said Roethlisberger, who is 13-2 in his career against NFC teams. ``We gave up a lot of sacks last year.''
Roethlisberger didn't throw much in his first two games - his 34 attempts are the fifth fewest for a starting quarterback.
By contrast, running back Willie Parker's 53 rushing attempts lead the league. He is on a pace to carry more than 400 times, despite breaking his right leg in the next-to-last regular season game last year.
``I'm feeling great, my body's feeling good,'' Parker said. ``But I ain't going to do 400 carries. I'll tell you right now, I ain't going to do 400 carries. I don't know about 300, but I'm not doing 400.''

Recent NFL Discussions


NFL Top Stories

Thumbnail Giants vs. Rams Prediction Will the Rams pull off the upset on Sunday morning when they take on the Giants at 9:30AM ET in London?
Thumbnail Seahawks vs. Cardinals Pick Will Sunday night be a defensive struggle between NFC West rivals the Seahawks and Cardinals at 8:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Patriots vs. Steelers Pick Even with Ben Roethlisberger out, will the Patriots and Steelers still rack up a ton of points Sunday at 4:25PM ET?
Thumbnail Bucs vs. 49ers Pick Will both the Bucs and 49ers offenses struggle on Sunday when the two teams clash at 4:05PM ET in San Francisco?
Thumbnail Vikings vs. Eagles Pick Will the undefeated Vikings shut down rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles when the two teams clash in Week 7?
More inNFL Articles  

NFL Team Pages