Back to the tape for our weekly sack breakdown to review the Pittsburgh Steelers lone sack against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Nothing crazy from Pittsburgh defensively, as they show a four-man rush vs. the Cardinals five man protection. Empty-set look from Arizona, and no additional Steelers showing blitz, so very likely pre-snap that the Cardinals will have a 5-on-4 advantage unless Pittsburgh sends delayed pressure, which they don’t.
If you watched the game, it probably came as no surprise to you that James Harrison ended up with the defense’s solitary sack on the afternoon. His power moves gave left tackle Jared Veldheer fits all day in pass protection.
Here Harrison opts for a straight bull rush, but it is his attention to detail that allows him to eventually work free for the sack.
Check out the hand placement I’ve noted above. The image is a little blurry, but you can see Harrison’s right arm fending off Veldheer’s outside hand/punch. Because the offensive tackle can’t land that outside arm, he’s powerless to stop Harrison’s bull rush, especially when the edge rusher re-positions his hands to Veldheer’s chest.
Now in complete control of the blocker thanks to his hand usage and leverage, Harrison simply bullies Veldheer back into the pocket, forcing Carson Palmer to attempt to escape. When the quarterback does so, Harrison shows off his power to disengage from the block and snag Palmer’s ankle for the sack.
Harrison nearly got home a number of times on Sunday, but the one time he did resulted in a huge play for Pittsburgh’s defense. The Steelers had just scored to take a 12-10 lead, their first of the game, and Arizona was attempting to answer. While Harrison’s sack did come on a long-shot 3rd-and-18, the seven-yard loss coupled with an ensuing Arizona penalty helped flip the field position battle in favor of the Steelers. Taking over at the Pittsburgh 41, Landry Jones and co. were able to work their way into field goal range for Chris Boswell’s 51-yard boot and an 18-12 lead.
The sack was the 17th of Pittsburgh’s season, good enough to tie Cincinnati for 6th in the NFL. Their early-season sack rate has dropped off a bit the past two weeks, but that is to be expected when facing higher-caliber quarterbacks with better internal clocks in Palmer and Philip Rivers. Pittsburgh is continuing to do a great job of generating pressure with creative blitzes, but it is still nice to see them get production with just four rushers. No surprise that Harrison, one of the heroes of the team’s Week 6 victory, was the man to collect the pass-rushing spoils for the Steelers on Sunday.