Notebook: Fastest defense ever?

Notebook: Fastest defense ever?

LATROBE – Ike Taylor replaced Deshea Townsend at right cornerback yesterday after Townsend sustained a minor injury, so a defense that was fast may have become the fastest in team history with Taylor in the lineup.

"I agree with that," said left cornerback Willie Williams. "This defense is real fast. Guys are not slow coming out these days. They're doing a lot of different stuff these days to get these guys a lot faster in college, and we do have a lot faster defense than the defense I was on in 1995."

A 3-4 defense, by definition, is faster than a 4-3 defense. And Williams should know better than anyone whether this defense has more speed than the only modern 3-4 Steelers defense to play in the Super Bowl.

"I think the big difference is the defensive tackles," he said. "Aaron Smith and Kimo (von Oelhoffen) come off the ball quick. Those are the quickest defensive linemen I've played with in a long time. All-around, it's a fast defense."

Yesterday, the Steelers worked on their 3-2-6 defense, which utilizes only one defensive lineman – Smith on the nose. Joining him up front were Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, outside linebackers who run in the 4.5-4.7 40 range. Among the six backs in the secondary were Taylor (4.3), Troy Polamalu (4.3), Ricardo Colclough (4.4) and Bryant McFadden (4.4).

Any other blazers?

"Chris Hope," said Williams. "People probably don't think he's that fast, but the way I'm looking at it, he's a lot faster than he was. We have a lot of guys on our team who have speed: Ike, Ricardo, McFadden. Those guys can really run."

"Guys are quicker and I think guys are smarter, too," said Smith. "When you play smarter you tend to play faster."

DEFENSE WINS AGAIN

For the second day in a row, the defense held the first-team offense out of the end zone in the one-minute drill. It's a rebound from last week when the offense won Friday's one-minute drill and Saturday's red-zone and goal-line drills.

The defense can gain complete payback tonight in the goal-line drill at Latrobe Stadium (7 p.m.).

"I don't think it's payback day, but we definitely want to go out and have a better performance than we did the first time," said Smith. "We never like it when anybody scores on us. That's the way a defensive mentality should be.

"We are teammates, so I wouldn't call it payback, but we want to have a good performance."

FRED NOT DEAD

After a slow start, rookie Fred Gibson is coming on. The fourth-round pick made his second big play in as many days. Gibson caught a 34-yard touchdown pass yesterday from Brian St. Pierre for the second-team offense in the one-minute drill.

St. Pierre had moved the team down the field with key conversions on fourth-and-12 to Nate Washington and third-and-8 to Zamir Cobb. Gibson beat Janssen Patten for the score.

Cowher was asked if he's happy with the young receivers, but his answer didn't reflect much enthusiasm.

"It's still early, but someone needs to separate from the pack," Cowher said.

INJURY REPORT

Lee Mays (hamstring) and Travis Kirschke (back) were joined on the sidelines by Townsend (Achilles' tendon) and Porter (hyperextended knee) after they sustained injuries during practice. Cowher said that neither of Tuesday's injuries is serious.

QUOTABLE

Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt on new wide receiver Cedrick Wilson:
"He's better than what we'd hoped for so far. He's really kind of standing out. The thing about him is he's been doing a good job in everything we've asked him to do: He's learned the system well; he's a smart kid; he's getting physical in the run game; and he's got good speed and quickness. We're excited about what we've seen from him so far."

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