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Stopping Jones-Drew a key for "D"

Posted Oct 13, 2011

The Steelers have faced their share of top running backs this season and it doesn’t get any easier on Sunday when they host Jacksonville at Heinz Field.

“It doesn’t let up,” said linebacker LaMarr Woodley. “Every week we have had someone. There is a good back out there every week. It’s a good challenge for us. We slacked off early and we have an opportunity each week to make up for it.”

Jaguars’ running back Maurice Jones-Drew will be the latest to challenge the Steelers run defense. Jones-Drew is fourth in the NFL with 476 yards on 96 carries, and has 553 total yards from scrimmage, accounting for 40 percent of their offense.

“A big, big, big portion of their offense goes through him,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “He is tough to stop, low to the ground, has great feet, great balance, and an incredible ball carrier. That is going to be our goal this week, get after him and hopefully we can contain him.

“Not only can he run the ball great but he can catch out of the backfield, screen plays. That is one thing that makes him such a threat. He is one of those guys everybody needs to be keyed on and we will be.”

Jones-Drew’s size can also present a problem for defenders. At 5-7, 208 pounds he is a powerful runner who is tough to bring down.

“He is a great athlete,” said linebacker James Farrior. “He is a tough guy to tackle. He is not going to go down with one guy tackling. No arm tackles. He can find a hole anywhere on the field. You have to be prepared for him doing cutbacks. They are going to show us a lot of looks with him and we are going to have to be prepared for it.”

With rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert making just his fourth career start for the Jaguars this week Jones-Drew’s role is even more valuable.

“They want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible,” added Farrior. “They have a young quarterback they don’t want to put the load on so they are going to feed it to him as much as they can. They are giving the ball to him more on check downs. That is a good option for a young quarterback when he doesn’t see what he wants to see he is going to check it down to the back.”

Last week the Steelers were able to stop Titans running back Chris Johnson, holding him to only 51 yards. It was the type of performance the defense expects every week.

“That is the game we expect to play,” said Keisel. “It’s something we can build off of. It’s just one game and we can still have a lot of improvement.

“Every team is trying to pack a good running back. That is the NFL. Everyone knows the importance of a good running game. We expect to see that week in and week out. We have been good around here about stopping the run. Hopefully we can build off of last week and continue that this week.”

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After missing the Titans game with a hamstring injury, running back Rashard Mendenhall will be back in the starting lineup against the Jaguars according to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

“He’s ready to go,” said Arians. “Everything will be back to normal, except for Mewelde Moore. He might not be able to make it but we will see at game time. He made great progress last week and over the last two days. He’s a veteran. He doesn’t need a lot of practice time.”

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Linebacker James Harrison was voted the meanest man in the NFL by those that know best – NFL players. In a poll of 287 players done by SI.com, Harrison was an easy winner with 35% of the vote.

“That means guys are scared of him and he is tough,” said safety Ryan Clark. “It is definitely a compliment.  In football you want your guys to be mean. It’s not saying he is mean that he pushes over little kids trying to get an autograph. But he is a guy who plays the game how it’s supposed to be played. He is a fierce competitor and nobody is his friend out there.”

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis came in second with 15% of the vote.

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Injury Update: Not practicing on Thursday were T Marcus Gilbert (shoulder), NT Casey Hampton (shoulder), LB James Harrison (eye), G Chris Kemoeatu (knee), RB Mewelde Moore (ankle) and DE Aaron Smith (foot). Limited in practice were CB Cortez Allen (ankle) and LB Jason Worilds (quadriceps).