The quarter package, one in which the Steelers have at least three safeties among the six defensive backs on the field, is not a gimmick.
Nor is it a way to cover for an injury, such as the sprained ankle that kept starting cornerback Cortez Allen from playing last Monday night and has prevented him from practicing so far this week.
“I love it,” free safety Ryan Clark said. “I think it’s one of the best packages we have. It’s something Troy (Polamalu) and I have been calling for.”
They will get more of it on Sunday.
“It was an asset for us last week,” Polamalu said. “We’ll see how it fares this week. I think it gives us a lot of flexibility.”
That flexibility may benefit Polamalu -- and the Steelers -- the most.
Having six defensive backs on the field allows Dick LeBeau to free Polamalu from any deep coverage responsibilities. That makes it even harder for opposing offenses to guess where the perennial Pro Bowler is going to be when the ball is snapped.
“You put your best player in position to make plays," Clark said, "and that’s Troy.”
Clark said there is another benefit to having six defensive backs on the field together.
“It has a lot of people from the same (meeting) room on the field communicating,” Clark said. “Even if the play call lines us up in certain spots we can move it around, we can show you different looks.”
Clark said the quarter package produced two of the most memorable defensive plays of the 2008 season: Deshea Townsend's pick-six that beat the Cowboys and Polamalu’s interception return for a touchdown that sealed a win over the Ravens in the AFC Championship game.
Clark said the Steelers got away from the sub package because inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is so athletic that the team didn’t want him coming off the field for a sixth defensive back.
Clark is thrilled it is back, though how much the Steelers use it will be largely dictated by game circumstances. There is the thought that a team could run right at the Steelers when they have six defensive backs on the field and overpower them.
“I don’t know which people on the field are better tacklers than those people,” Clark said. “You might be able to say Lawrence but other than that who’s more physical than those guys? I don’t think it makes us susceptible to the run at all.”