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Steelers Blog

Lake a key part of secondary’s success

Posted by Teresa Varley on January 14, 2013 – 5:00 am


If there was an NFL award given to individual position coaches, Ryan Clark has no doubt who should be the recipient of the secondary coach of the year, none other than his own coach, Carnell Lake.

Lake, in his second season coaching the Steelers’ defense backs, has guided the unit to be the number one pass defense in the NFL for the second year in a row.

“I told him he is the defensive backs coach of the year this year,” said Clark. “When you think about the different people and lineup combinations he has had to use this year and us to finish No. 1 in pass defense is a huge accomplishment not only for us, but for Coach Lake.”

The Steelers were without safety Troy Polamalu for nine games this season, while Ike Taylor missed the final five games of the year with an ankle injury. Cortez Allen started for Taylor and continued to grow, but he too was sidelined for a game while Taylor was out, and Josh Victorian, who spent most of the season on the practice squad, started against the Cowboys.

Through it all, though, the secondary was consistent allowing just 185.2 yards per game, and the players give much of that credit to Lake.

“He is an intelligent guy,” said safety Will Allen. “Just his wisdom of the game and how he approaches it, his mentality, he is a tough guy. It’s crazy because if you didn’t know him, he hardly says anything about playing. He is a competitor. He exudes that throughout the room.

“He prepares each player for what is to come. He prepares the group very well. He believes a lot in technique. He doesn’t necessarily harp on the schematics on defense. He is more about technique. That helps us tremendously. If you look at the technique of the cornerback play the last 3-4 years alone, you can see how the level has been tremendous, even the safety play. He talked to us more about tackling and covering, attention to details, and eyes. He stresses on it and harps on it. I think that has helped us become the best in the league for two straight seasons.”

While the secondary would like to have been more opportunistic this year as far as turnovers, they have a lot of pride in being the top ranked passing defense for the second year, especially after they were ranked 12th against the pass in 2010, the year before Lake’s arrival. What Lake did upon taking over was not overhaul the secondary, but instead he works with everyone’s strengths, while bringing his understanding and style having played both cornerback and safety for the Steelers.

“He played old-school, hard-nosed hitting football,” said Taylor. “He understands. He didn’t force anything on us. He didn’t say I am the coach and this is how it will be. He asked how we did things, and then told us how they did things. If it worked the way we did it, he will let us go with it, but if it doesn’t work he will step in and tell us this is how we are doing it. When he has to put his foot down and say we are doing it this way, we are cool with it and go with what Coach Lake says. He understands us and we understand him.”

Clark credits Lake with the development of the team’s young corners, including Keenan Lewis who had a breakout season in his first year as a starter, as well as Allen and Curtis Brown.

“Looking at those guys, that is a lot of Carnell Lake’s influence,” said Clark. “If those guys don’t play well for us this year we don’t finish where we finish. Also he allows us to be individuals, allows us to play to our strengths. He implements the program and then he listens. He is the type of coach that will say how do you guys see it?

“When you have a coach you already respect because you know he played the game at a high level, but he also respects you, when you get that kind of camaraderie in the room it’s contagious.”

Posted in News | 22 Comments »

22 Responses to “Lake a key part of secondary’s success”

  1. By TraceGamble on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Glad to see Carnell sharing his expertise with the current Steelers. Loved watching him play. One of the most underrated DBs in the history of the NFL. Could play both safety positions and corner, all at Pro-Bowl level… amazing talent and ability.

  2. By Anthony Jones on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    So proud of my High School classmate Carnell Lake for the tremendous job he has done with the Steelers secondary. When you look at all the injuries that the secondary had to deal with this past season, and the finished ranking of #1 in pass defense, that is a great accomplishment. I look forward to a healthier season this year for the secondary as well as for the entire team. GO STEELERS!!!!

  3. By Patrick Case on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Carnell Lake was one of the best DB’s to ever play the game and now it seems he may become one of the best coaches as well.You can definitely see his influence in the play of Lewis,Allen and Brown.Congrats on being number 1 for a second year in a row.I know this year did not end how anyone of us wanted it to,but keep striving for excellence and we WILL be playing for #7 next year

  4. By Nick on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Yeah glad #37 is in the Organiztion again!

  5. By Tim Ricohermoso on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    The 2 Steelers that I think it’s a shame aren’t in the HOF, L.C. Greenwood & Carnell Lake!

  6. By Patrick on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Sorry, 8-8 is not a successful season. They may have been ranked #1 in terms of yards allowed, but it is misleading. The secondary, along with the rest of the defense didn’t force enough turnovers and didn’t get after opposing QB’s enough. Glad #37 is back though. Lets get rid of Ike and things will be looking up in the secondary.

  7. By jackie bruner on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Carnell was a cornerstone defender pass and run,played all secondary positions either due to injury of other playrs or neded to shutdown top recievers of the time sort of like a mel blount.he would make a great defensive coordinator one day very soon hopefully with the steelers depending onthe future of dick lebeau,kevin butler,status.Go Steelers!!

  8. By wnzeidenstein on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Sorry they didn’t make the playoffs this year. Hopfully next year will be better. Carnell was a great defense player. Glad he is sharing his experiences.

  9. By wnzeidenstein on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Sorry they didn’t make the playoffs. Too many injuries. Next year will be better. Glad Carnell is sharing his experiences He was a great DB ever. Hope stays with the Steelers.

  10. By James Ferguson on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    For the below level talent we have in the secondary, Lake has done an excellent job with what he has to work with.I wish we had six guys that could play just like he did.He made the Pro Bowl as a safety and cornerback.Great job Coach Lake.

  11. By JIM LOHMAN on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Congrats to Cornell Lake. Just think what they would have done with a healthy troy, James Harrison , Lamar Woodley and Bret keisel, to name a few. I’m really glad the front office is looking hard at the injuries and what can be done to reduce them in the days ahead. Got to get back to pressuring the QB.

  12. By Brian Wolfe on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Thanks Carnell! Your work has not gone unnoticed! Thanks for sharing your expertise and experience!

  13. By Febi on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    I have always been a huge fan of #37. A guy who played linebacker in college, and yet was a pro bowler at both cb and safety. One of my favorite all time steelers. He, rod, Everett, and Johnson were a great unit.

  14. By Rob on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    Considering that the defensive backs played roughly 3 games with its “1st string starters” this ranking is unbelievable. When you have the number one pass defense it makes a lot of sense to keep them together. Sign Keenan Lewis, Restructure Troys contract and get back to the superbowl!!!

  15. By charles on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    The first game that I saw coached with Carnell as the secondary coach, I knew this guy was very good. 2 years in a row with the #1 ranking. Given no pass rush. This is a monumental accomplishment. If the Steelers don’t realize this then we will be doomed to second tier. Lake should be DC. PERIOD !#$@#!$#@!

  16. By Anthony Thomas on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    I have been a Steelers fan since 1969 and have seen many good DB’s play for the steelers and the rest of the NFL. Rod Woodson and Carnell Lake were the Conner stone of the Steelers top rank defenses for many years and Woodson is already in the pro football Hall Of Fame and Carnell Lake will be there soon to join him. Congratulation to the Steelers secondary for there play and to coach Lake for his coaching success. I would love to have coach Lake around to someday become the steelers defensive coordinator after the great Dick LeBeau decides to retire.

  17. By ParamountSteeler on Jan 15, 2013 | Reply

    Remember very well player Carnell Lake and Rod Woodson in the Steeler defense always admired Mr.Lake for being the quiet very classy player the true professional very few words yet carried a BIG hit! Polamalu plays very much the same way. Let your play speak for you much like your actions.

  18. By Jorge Flores on Jan 15, 2013 | Reply

    Carnell did a great job. Finishing 1st at Pasing defense is a big accomplishment. However, I´m sill a little bit dissapointed with the development and talent of some players. Curtis Brown has been a bust so far (he was drafted before Cortez Allen on same draft class, and he has been playing worst than Allen). Josh Victorian played horrible against San Diego and Dallas. And Ryan Mundy has not been anything better than a Backup player. He lost the starting role (playing for injured Polamalu) to Will Allen.
    The positive things Keenan Lewis that played incredibly well and Cortez Allen. Allen became a Ball hawk the last two games (Two Ints against Bengals, Two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery against Browns). Cortez will make a push for a starting role next year, so Ike needs to get back in really good shape if he doesn´t want to lose the job to Allen or Lewis.

  19. By Ron Bramhall on Jan 15, 2013 | Reply

    Carnell is one of the most underrated DBs ever. He was the complete All-Pro and we are so lucky to have him coaching our secondary. The stats speak volumes on his influence. When I worked at training camp in 1995, he was always friendly and professional too. I value his autograph above many of the others I have!

  20. By tbird on Jan 15, 2013 | Reply

    love Lake!!!

  21. By Taylor on Jan 16, 2013 | Reply

    What an awesome job he had done! Especially considering all the injuries on D this year, to hold the #1 rating with the secondary. To continue the high quality of play from the position, I would like to see Ike released, free up some big $ to make Lewis & Allen our starters, and sign them long term. A lot of young talent who have proven to Lake and the Steeler Nation they can step up.

  22. By Henry Lagos on Jan 16, 2013 | Reply

    Having someone like Carnell in the coaching staff is so important. You can tell the players respect and listen to him. I always loved his play-making ability as a safety. Hope he stays right here !!

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