After the first three preseason games there are definitely not enough clear standouts on the defense. James Harrison has made his presence felt and almost seems timeless. In about a quarter of play between two preseason games #92 is responsible for two sacks and two forced fumbles, as well as a safety.
If he can do this on a regular basis during full-time games come September than this is a different and much better defense. Inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier will hold their own, they more than likely will have the higher tackle totals on the team when the season concludes.
After the linebackers there are still huge questions about the potential of the secondary. Enter Antwon Blake.
Looking at the Steelers corners it appears that William Gay looks set to start on the left while Cortez Allen is loosely penciled in on the right. Allen had a challenging year last year and was eventually surpassed by Antwon Blake, who played opposite Gay in the final month and a half of the regular season.
Brandon Boykin could factor in as a starter, but seems in line to play the nickel. Coming from the Eagles, Boykin must still learn the nuances of the system played in Pittsburgh. Blake has now played in it for two years and last year was under the spotlight. The team finished the season hot and not only on offense, Blake was a big part of that.
Antwon Blake is a Dick Lebeau-type 3-4 corner. He can easily get himself into position to make plays on the ball in pass coverage while being a very aggressive tackler. It remains to be seen how Keith Butler will work his defense schematically, but if the base defense is as it was last year then Blake seems a logical choice to start.
He demonstrated his ability during this third preseason game on special teams, pinning the Packers at the one yard line yesterday, setting up James Harrison’s safety. He finished the game with six tackles and two passes defended as well as being that catalyst on the first team’s scoring drive.
It is apparent when watching him that he gets to the ball in a hurry and makes the effort to on every play. Blake plays very physical and does not shy away from contact. He essentially represents the physicality that this team needs to demonstrate in their regular demeanor play in and play out.
He provides a spark. He provides the spark that the secondary needs. As a starter he could bring a level of intensity that could shift momentum and help get the defense to where it needs to be.
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