Steelers Generating Pressure On Defense – Just Not Enough

By Matthew Marczi

Perhaps the internal statistics keepers for the Pittsburgh Steelers were equally disgusted by the team’s performance against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night, because they were very harsh in terms of crediting players with defensive pressures.

By any reasonable account, it seemed as though the Steelers generated as much, if not more pressure against the Bengals than they did the week before against the Tennessee Titans. Yet according to the team’s official statistics, the team managed to pressure Andy Dalton on just five occasions, down from 13 the week before.

That statistic just does not sound very accurate; however, it just goes to show that there is no standard measurement to judge what qualifies as pressure on the quarterback when it is not a sack.

Consider the fact that, according to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers actually had considerably more success rushing the passer this past week, generating pressure 20 times on Dalton’s 49 pass attempts. Of course, there are times when more than one player generates pressure on a given play, but that is still roughly 40 percent of the time.

There are two players in particular that stood out to me for the performance as pass rushers this week, both positively and negatively. On the negative side was Steve McLendon, who after generating three pressures on 11 pass rushing attempts a week ago failed to get any pressure this past week on almost twice the amount of rushing attempts.

McLendon was dealing with a hamstring injury this past week, which limited him in practice, so I suspect that the injury slowed him down some during the last game and marginalized his effectiveness in some areas. It was also telling that the Steelers had Hebron Fangupo active for the game.

Despite that, however, Fangupo did not play, and in fact Al Woods actually saw less snaps this week than he did last week. The Steelers had no hesitation in playing him; he was simply not as effective this week.

Another player who also stood out to me was Ziggy Hood, who I thought had one of his better all-around games thus far. Pro Football Focus somewhat generously credits him with four hurries in the game (conversely, the Steelers’ statistics managers cynically did not credit him with any), but it is true in general that he was able to get more push on passing downs than he has in the past. Perhaps the light is truly finally coming on from a technique standpoint for Hood.

Brett Keisel was once again a nuisance and disrupting force as a pass rusher, and Cameron Heyward continued to have success spelling Hood in passing situations, but the effort of LaMarr Woodley should be highlighted, who had consistent pressure throughout the night, which included two solid shots on Dalton.

Although the Steelers are not having much success getting home to finish off the sacks thus far in the early portion of the season, they are having some success in generating pressure in general and influencing plays. The introduction of some batted balls was also a nice addition to see. However, the pressure is still not generating enough mistakes, and thus turnovers, so there is still work to be done, for sure.

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