Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Weddle San Diego Chargers starting safety Eric Weddle was gracious enough to break down the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense as part of ESPN.com's Super Bowl XLIII coverage of the Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.
Weddle's opinion is certainly a valued one. His Chargers faced Pittsburgh twice in the 2008 season. The Chargers lost in Pittsburgh 11-10 on Nov. 16 and then they lost to the Steelers, 35-24, in the AFC divisional playoff round on Jan. 11.
Weddle, who'll be entering his third NFL season in 2009, has a reputation as being one of the bright, young defensive players in the league as well as a tackling machine. Weddle said there are three key areas defenses need to key in on when playing Pittsburgh:
Contain the run: "Pittsburgh is a big, physical group that wants to run the ball. The Steelers start every game by wanting to establish the running game. The defense's job is to try to show down and make it one dimensional. Then you can use your blitz packages and open things up some. The Steelers will thrive in those second down and 6, third-and-3 situations. You have to stop the run and make them work on second and third downs and 10 to go and they won't be able to use their play action as much. It starts with stopping the run with them."
Put pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "Getting pressure on Ben is really a key and it's not easy. That offensive line has improved steadily. They were better the second time we played them than the first time we played them. You have to make your defensive presence felt against Ben. You have to get in his window and make him feel uncomfortable."
Cover your responsibilities on the backside: "The pressure on Ben starts up front, but it's important to play strong coverage on the back end of the defense. You have to stay with your guys and within your coverage throughout the play. Ben can make some very difficult plays outside of the pocket. He plays well with his feet. He can roll to his left and throw to his right. They hit a 65-yard touchdown against Baltimore doing that. You have to stay on the strongside when Ben rolls out or when he tries to buy time in general for all spots on the field whether it's against man or zone coverage you have to stay with your guy or in your zone the backside against. He can hurt you.
"Those are the three big keys. They have strong individual players. And they are tough to play, but as a defense it starts with stopping the run, putting pressure on the quarterback and protecting the backside."