Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin fielded some questions following the morning practice of the rookie minicamp yesterday, and naturally the questions covered a variety of topics, which can go in one ear and out the other.
From what Tomlin is looking for when evaluating during minicamp to whether or not it was intentional that Steelers second-round defensive end Stephon Tuitt was given jersey number 91, knowing that it once belonged to Aaron Smith, a wide variety of material was entertained in this first post-practice address.
There was one question in particular that I thought was interesting, however, because it touched on an intersection of many current concerns surrounding the team on the defensive side of the ball.
Tomlin was asked by a reporter if he could sum up his philosophy of creating pressure with his front seven and how it relates to the secondary. The Steelers have struggled to generate sacks for three straight seasons now, managing to record only 34 of them in 2013.
Since then, they’ve released LaMarr Woodley, who signed the largest contract by a defensive player in team history in large part because of his ability to generate pressure and bring the quarterback down.
Then we have the cornerback position, with Ike Taylor in presumably his last season and unquestionably in a steady decline. The Steelers opted to pass on the position through the first four rounds of the draft.
On the other hand, they did beef up their defensive pressure packages with Ryan Shazier, Tuitt, and the earlier free agent signing of Mike Mitchell. it’s surely no coincidence that the passing defense tends to be better when the team is generating more pressure.
“Rush and coverage works together”, Tomlin said, and “it has since the beginning of time, and will [continue to work together].
“You’ve got to apply pressure to the quarterback. It doesn’t matter how many people you do it with, you better use as many as required for consistent pressure to assure that the ball comes out in a timely manner”.
The Steelers haven’t been one of the more successful teams of late in creating pressure out of their base, though there were still only moderate improvements when they blitzed.
Still, they must find a way by any means necessary to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand faster than they have over the past few seasons.
“When it doesn’t, it means points and yards for the offense. And that’s just the reality of football at any level when the passing game is an integral part of it”.