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Monday, April 11, 2011
More evidence Steelers need CB help

By James Walker
ESPN.com

With the reigning AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers thin at cornerback and Ike Taylor about to hit free agency, we have more statistical evidence why it's vital for Pittsburgh to address this need in the offseason.

According to ESPN's Stats and Information, NFL offenses are increasingly using three or more receivers, which dictates personnel on defense. In 2010 teams lined up three or more receivers on offense 48.2 percent of the time, up from 46.1 percent in 2009 and 45.7 percent in 2008.

As a result, defenses needed to use three or more cornerbacks on 48.5 percent of snaps last season. For Pittsburgh, that means some combination of backups William Gay, Anthony Madison and Crezdon Butler would need to see the field on nearly half of the defense's plays.

The Green Bay Packers, who run a West Coast offense, won Super Bowl XLV in February primarily by utilizing multiple-receiver sets to take advantage of Pittsburgh's lack of secondary depth. Passing teams like the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots also were able to expose this weakness last season.

Thanks to various rule changes the past several years, it's harder than ever to defend the pass, and it's up to the Steelers to adjust. Pittsburgh rarely uses first-round picks on cornerbacks because its primary focus is dominating the line of scrimmage. But statistical evidence suggests the Steelers might want to reconsider and invest more resources into pass defense.