THOU SHALL NOT PASS:** Playing pass defense has become a complicated procedure in the National Football League.
"It's harder," eighth-year free safety Mike Mitchell acknowledged. "When I first got into the league it was just run into them however you run into them. Obviously, now it requires more skill. You have to be more pin-point accurate with how you place the shot.
"At the end of the day I've worked on it over the last two years and I think I have it perfected."
The Steelers' 24-14 win over the New York Football Giants last Sunday suggested they're all getting the hang of it.
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. hit triple figures receiving but didn't score a touchdown and required 16 targets to amass his 100 yards.
The Steelers were flagged for pass interference twice (Mitchell and cornerback Stephon Tuitt) but Beckham was penalized once for the same infraction (Steelers tight end Ladarius Green also drew a flag for offensive pass interference).
The Steelers prepare for the Week 14 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
Mitchell had a flag initially thrown against him for unnecessary roughness picked up.
The plan, Cockrell said afterward, was to be physical with Beckham and to win the game.
The Steelers did both, playing pass defense as they've learned to play, a they intend to play it the rest of the way, by applying tenacity, technique and tact.
Tenacity: "I think I'm pound-for-pound for the No. 1 hitter in the league and I think I'm the most skillful hitter in the league," Mitchell announced. "No safety has done it better than me. No defender has done it better than me. I play the right way. Every day in practice I have kill shots lined up and 'Coach T' (Mike Tomlin) repeatedly says to me, 'Think about how you're going to hit him.' I'm extremely conscious of that. I don't want to penalize my team and give up extra yards but I can't not play physical and violent and aggressive because that's who I am. I think I'm pound-for-pound the hardest hitter and the most skillful one doing it."
Tenacity: "You just try to play within the rules but play aggressive," cornerback William Gay said. "You can't control what the officials call because you just never know. One set of officials may call it a certain way, another set of officials may not. We can talk to the refs all day but you have to know this is an offensive show, is what I call it. They're not going to get too much into calling offensive pass interference. We did get one against the Giants, that was pretty cool. I'm always glad when they call it on them. You normally don't hear them say 'offensive pass interference.'
"First and foremost we just wanted to win the game. We just had to match the intensity of their receivers, pretty much of their offense. We just wanted to match their intensity and hoped we'd win more (snaps) than they did."
Technique:** "It starts with your feet," Cockrell said. "Your feet put you in the right position within the 5 yards to get hands on. If your feet aren't right then you're going to be reaching and holding and grabbing instead of just impeding progress.
"The approach after 5 yards is look for the ball and go for the ball. We have just as much right as they do to go for that football while it's in the air. So obviously there's going to be a battle for it but we have to look for and attack the football. You try not to get any contact on him, but of course while you turn back for the ball you might bump into him, he might bump into you while he's looking for the football. It's all about looking for the football, going for the football down the field and whatever happens is a football play."
Tact: "I try to get to know (officials), know names, know how they like to call it, what they're looking for. Sometimes, you have to adjust each game. You might have had a crew last week that let you play a certain way. And then this week it's a little bit tighter or a little bit looser. You kind of figure that out early in the game and just try to finesse it from there.
"Even when we do get a penalty called I never really fuss because at the end of the day you're not going to get it changed, usually. But just to ask what you saw, what happened and how we can do it differently, the (officials) have been absolutely outstanding with that. The conversations we're having have been big and beneficial."