Starting a new weekly series breaking down the Pittsburgh Steelers sacks from that week’s game. Should have started this Week 1, but alas, creativity and new ideas are not always my strong suit.
Perhaps the most surprising and pleasing aspect of the Steelers defense this season is how often they have generated pressure from week-to-week. The team has 16 sacks, tied for fourth best in the NFL, putting them on pace for 51 this season, the franchise’s highest mark since 2008.
The production has come from a number of different places, but until Sunday, Jarvis Jones had yet to get in on the 2015 sack race. Against the Chargers, Jones became the tenth Steelers defender to record a sack this season, and he did it with some powerful hands at the point-of-attack.
Pittsburgh runs a simple twist off their right side, with Cameron Heyward crashing hard to clear out the left guard. The Chargers pick up the blitz beautifully (great block by Melvin Gordon on Sean Spence), but can’t win their one-on-one matchups.
Heyward should probably get half-credit for this sack, as he bull-rushes Chris Watt back into Philip Rivers’ back as he had all night. With Spence falling in around his feet, Rivers has no escape avenue in the pocket, or space to step up. Before he can throw the ball away, Jones reaches around the center to grab Rivers around the head, hanging on for dear life until he can finally wrestle the quarterback to the ground.
Jones shows great explosiveness and power in his hands to bull through center Trevor Robinson, a tribute to his added bulk since entering the league. All in all, one of his best games as a Steeler on Monday night.
The Steelers second sack of the game came from rookie Bud Dupree, who is now alone in second place on the team with three sacks.
The Steelers rush only four on this play (always nice to see pressure with just four rushers), with Dupree matched up against backup right tackle Kenny Wiggins.
Dupree’s first step burst is again on display, but Wiggins actually counters it with some pretty good initial quickness of his own. The right tackle actually only loses the edge when Gordon runs into him releasing into the flat. All Dupree needs is that millisecond to get Wiggins overextended trying to seal the corner. The outside linebacker’s lack of bend is apparent, but with the blocker well out of position, he’s able to work through minimal contact and drop Rivers before the quarterback can release the ball.
If I’m being unbiased, it is impossible to ignore that Dupree has been very fortunate on his sacks this season. He was completely unblocked in his first career sack against New England, and notched this one against a backup right tackle who got knocked off his block by his own teammate. That’s not a knock on Dupree at all, he’s found ways to exploit ideal situations and produce, a good sign for any pass rusher. But right now he’s winning almost exclusively because of his first step burst off the line of scrimmage. While I’d like to see more advanced pass rush moves, hand usage, and speed-to-power conversions, it is exciting to recognize Dupree’s ceiling if he can ever put all of that together. Either way, production matters, and so far Dupree has found a way to make things happen despite a limited pass rushing repertoire.