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Notebook: Spotting Blitz Key Against Pittsburgh

Posted Oct 10, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer quickly referred to the Steelers as “Blitzburgh,” and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Pittsburgh has no shortage of players capable of rushing the passer.

Palmer said the Steelers are blitzing 53 percent of the time, and Hasselbeck added that they have a unique ability to show blitz but drop linebackers in their 3-4 scheme into coverage. The tactic creates scenarios in which offenses must decide how to effectively allocate their resources.

“One of the things they do well, some of the guys that are great at rushing the passer are also good at dropping out into coverage, so you can’t dedicate one of your stronger blockers to that guy because he might be dropping out in pass coverage,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s the nature of what they do. They’re very good at it, and the other thing is, I think they’re real instinctive as a defense. They can kind of smell stuff out, and I believe they let some of their guys just be playmakers and go play.”

Tennessee (1-4) hosts Pittsburgh (2-2) at LP Field Thursday night.

Hasselbeck, a 14-year veteran will be making his second consecutive start in place of Jake Locker (shoulder injury). He said it will be important to look past the hand that Pittsburgh tries to show and quickly read what they are actually doing on every play.

“Pre-snap almost means nothing to me. It’s all post-snap,” Hasselbeck said. “I guess as a younger quarterback, people would always say, ‘Your pre-snap read is this,’ and when a guy, especially later on in college, I had a coach that called everything the post-snap look, and I thought that’s a much, much better way to describe it because what they do pre-snap means nothing. Corners are liars, safeties are liars. You’ve got to see what happens after the snap.”

Palmer said it is important to adjust protections accordingly. If too much focus is placed on one player or in the wrong direction, there is likely to be an opportunist coming from the other direction.

“It’s not easy, and even if you get the protection right, which we feel like we can (by) just sticking with our normal rules, it’s all about matchups,” Hasselbeck said. “Just because you get a hat on a hat doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to be able to block them.”

BRITT MAKING PROGRESS: The Titans have been encouraged by the progression of receiver Kenny Britt, who returned to the lineup Sunday at Minnesota after injuring his ankle in Week 3 against Detroit.

Britt has nine catches for 83 yards in three games this season as he’s dealt with offseason knee surgery and the ankle injury. The fourth-year pro had six catches for 55 yards against Detroit before being sidelined and fully practiced Tuesday and Wednesday.

“He’s a little bit rusty and improving each and every day and we just have to be patient with that,” Palmer said. “That’s the toughest thing because we know he’s a gifted player, but like any player, they need to build up their stamina, endurance and catching skills. It’s different than getting on the Jugs machine or just Coach (Dave) Ragone throwing him the ball. Now it’s live and there’s crossing routes and people and things like that. Hopefully that will get better each and every week.”

Britt said Tuesday that he felt better on the field than he has this season.  In addition to getting his stride and cutting back, Britt said he’s also had to get his eyes back.

“To be a receiver, you’ve got to catch the ball twice,” Britt said. “You catch it with your eyes first and then your hands. If you don’t learn to catch it with your eyes, you’re not going to get a chance to catch it with your hands. To me, it felt like I’m getting back to normal.”

Hasselbeck began the 2011 season — his first with the Titans — by finding Britt quickly. The receiver had 17 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns before suffering the season-ending knee injury in the third week of the season.

“I’ve got a great confidence level in him. Obviously, last year I did with no offseason,” Hasselbeck said. “He is also coming off a few injuries, so it’s not just my confidence in him. It’s his own confidence in himself, and I think that’s probably bigger than anything, just feeling like he’s in a rhythm, in a groove, kind of in the zone. For me, you get in a rhythm, you get confidence in yourself because of your preparation, because of the things you’ve done.”

GET A GRIP: The Titans expect Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger to hold onto the football for a considerable amount of time, move around the pocket and wait for the biggest play to develop.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said it will be important to pressure Roethlisberger and contain him as help arrives to bring down the 6-foot-5, 241 pounder.

“He’s a big guy, so he’s going to get off that first guy, get out of the pocket and let his receivers get open, so after the first guy gets there, we’ve got to get at least three or four guys to get him down,” Casey said. “He’s a big dude and he’s going to hang onto that ball. He’s not going to hurry up and try to throw it. He’s going to take a hit or try to get out of that pocket.”

It’s a style that’s served Roethlisberger well in the past, though he departed from it last season against Tennessee. Roethlisberger was dealing with a foot injury and used a bevy of quick drop-backs to get the ball to his receivers. He went 24-for-38 for 228 yards and five TDs with one interception. The nine-year pro, however, has returned to the patient, move-around-the-pocket style that he’s used most of his career.

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said he’s instructed defenders to “just hold on when you get a chance to get him.”

“That’s what you’ve got to do,” Gray said. “You see him hitting guys and he’s throwing them off, so you’ve got to just hold on and hope that the other guys give you a chance to get him down.”

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