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Raiders' Stefen Wisniewski likely to start vs. Steelers

  • Oakland Raiders guard Stefen Wisniewski (61)
    during warm-ups prior to an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

LeBeau refined the zone blitz out of a 3-4 defense while working for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1984 in part to deal with the increasing number of West Coast offensive systems.

At age 76, LeBeau is one of the only coordinators in the league without a reference call sheet, storing all information in his head. The occasionally bizarre pre-snap looks can make little sense to young quarterbacks — hence LeBeau's 16-2 record against rookie QBs since 2004.

The Steelers, however, know exactly what they're doing. LaMarr Woodley, their left outside linebacker, leads the team with five sacks, and free safety Troy Polamalu remains a threat against both run and pass in his 11th NFL season.

With Andre Gurode (knee) and Tony Pashos (hip) unlikely to play after missing practice again Thursday, second-year player Lucas Nix will start at left guard and Matt McCants at right tackle.

Wisniewski's job, besides dealing with Pittsburgh's 320-pound nose tackle Steve McLendon, will be making line calls based on what he sees.

"He's got a lot of different looks and he does it with different personnel," Wisniewski said of LeBeau. "He's got (defensive backs) coming, he's got linebackers coming. He's got big guys standing up and just walking around. He really understands protections well, so he understands how to beat your protections, and he's been doing it for 20, 30 years."

When Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver was an offensive assistant with the 49ers, he said LeBeau was "one of the few coaches who could break down our protection and really hurt us."While not technically a rookie, Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor has the experience level that makes it tough to deal with a LeBeau defense. Having Wisniewski back acts as a security blanket. Pryor said he can keep an eye on blitzers from the far outside and trust Wisniewski to handle things in the interior.

"There's not really much I have to worry about in terms of protection because I know Wiz is going to see it," Pryor said. "I know if it's just in the box, Wiz is going to handle it and I can focus on the play and the coverage. He'll be on top of all that stuff, so it will be good to see him."

With his uncle Steve having played for the Raiders, Wisniewski grew up a rarity in Pittsburgh — a Raiders fan in a sea of black and gold.

"Everybody kind of grows up watching the Steelers, rooting for the Steelers," Wisniewski said. "It's cool to play against a team you grew up watching. It's also cool for bragging rights. I spend my offseasons out there, so I want to be able to hold my head up high and wear my Raiders gear when I'm walking around Pittsburgh in the offseason."


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