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LB's recovery hasn't helped Steelers defense

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter
returns to Denver this weekend for the first time since being shot
there six weeks ago. Don't look for him to drop by any sports bars.

"I'm going to be where I'm supposed to be," Porter said.
"This is a business trip. It's not like on Saturday nights we go
out anyway. I'll get some dinner, probably in the hotel, and get
ready for the game."

Pittsburgh (2-3), coming off consecutive one-sided losses at
home, plays Sunday at Denver (4-1) in what several Steelers say is
a pivotal game. If only for that reason, Porter will be much too
busy to spend much time thinking about his last trip to Denver.

Porter was shot outside a sports bar several hours after the
Colorado State-Colorado game on Aug. 30. A former Colorado State
player, Porter went to the bar with some former college friends and
was standing in a parking lot with about 150 others when the
shooting took place.

The 9-millimeter bullet struck Porter in the buttocks and lodged
in his right thigh before being removed by the Steelers' team
doctor two days later. The Steelers initially feared Porter might
miss half the season, but his wounds healed so quickly he missed
only two games.

The shooting left one dead and wounded five others, including
Porter, who was described by police as an innocent bystander.
Porter has not talked to police since that weekend.

"I didn't see nothing, so there's nothing I can tell them,"
Porter said. "I told them I was hit. There was nothing else I saw.
I gave them my statement that day. That's all I remember."

Despite his quick return to the lineup, Porter has yet to start
playing like he did last season, when he became the first NFL
player to have nine sacks and four interceptions in a season. He
has one sack and nine tackles in three games, and has yet to make
more than four tackles in a game.

But Porter is hardly to blame for the Steelers' ongoing problems
with controlling offenses that use four-receiver sets, which often
force Porter and linebacker Kendrell Bell to drop into pass
coverage.

Porter hasn't complained about being used as essentially an
extra defensive back, though it takes away from his ability to pass
rush.

"I'm doing what the defense asks me. I don't keep track or a
chart of how many times I rushed or how many times I dropped,"
Porter said. "He calls it, I haul it, it's as simple as that."

What isn't proving as simple is fixing a Steelers defense that
has allowed 30 or more points three times after doing so eight
times last season. Coach Bill Cowher says the Steelers are blitzing
as often as they did a year ago, but they have only nine sacks in
five games after having 50 sacks last season.

Here's the anomaly: the Steelers' defense is top-ranked in the
league, mostly because teams are scoring so fast they're not piling
up lots of yards. Also, the Steelers have allowed four touchdowns
on returns, three on interceptions, and another interception was
returned to their 1 and was quickly converted into a touchdown.

The Steelers are allowing 25.8 points per game, the ninth worst
average in the league.

Porter won't say if he thinks blitzing more might prove
disruptive to opposing quarterbacks, who have completed 35 of 41
passes for four touchdowns in the Steelers' last two games.

TV cameras caught Porter yelling, "Take off the shackles"
during Sunday night's 33-13 loss at home to Cleveland, but he
denies he wanted defensive coordinator Tim Lewis to call more
blitzes.

"It doesn't matter what defense is called, it's up to everyone
to go out there and stop them from making offensive plays," he
said. "That's the scheme, period. I don't go out there and
complain about a defensive play. I don't have any defenses for me.
Nobody has a certain defense. You're rushing or you're dropping.
Game, set, match."