Diversity Key In Resurgence Of Steelers’ Pass Rush

The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to pick up five sacks in their Sunday night thrashing of the Colts, which brought their season total up to 35. That number is significant with a quarter of the year remaining to play, as it surpasses their total for the entirety of the 2014 season.

In fact, the Steelers are averaging just a bit under three sacks per game this year, and are on pace to record 40 or more sacks for the first time since the 2010 season, which just so happens to be the last time that they have won a playoff game.

That year, the Steelers got contributions from all over, but a good chunk of it came from their Pro Bowl-worthy edge rushers. James Harrison got his share of 10.5 sacks, while LaMarr Woodley had 10 of his own. It is the last time that the team has boasted a pair of double-digit sack players in a season.

The defense got major contributions from all over, however, including a combined 10 sacks from the inside linebackers, and six from the secondary. 8.5 sacks from the defensive line, as well as a few other strays here and there, added up to 48 sacks for the year.

The 2015 edition of the Steelers are not quite on that pace, but are not far from it, as they figure to get up to 46 or 47 sacks based on their per-game projections. And the key to the success this season has been the diversity of pressure.

Three quarters of the way into the season, not one player on the team has surpassed five sacks on the year, but 12 different players have managed to record at least one sack. While the secondary has not produced the way the 2010 defense has, the unit has become a more important part of a variety of blitz packages.

The key difference has been the increase in prominence of the defensive line in gaining pressure, with first-year defensive coordinator Keith Butler allowing his two stud defensive ends to gather more opportunities to one-gap and have the primary responsibility of rushing the passer.

As a result, the Steelers’ two bookend defensive linemen have combined for 9.5 sacks on their own, and the defensive line as a whole has 10.5. Cameron Heyward holds a share of the team lead with five sacks, while Stephon Tuitt, who missed multiple games, is right behind him with 4.5. For Heyward, it is his third straight season with at least five sacks. Steve McLendon also has one sack.

The rotation at outside linebacker has also been producing results, with the four edge rushers combining for 14 sacks, or 40 percent of the team’s total sacks production. The old man Harrison took the lead in the group with five after he had a three-sack game Sunday night.

Rookie Bud Dupree has been able to take the quarterback down for a loss four times, while Arthur Moats has had three. Jarvis Jones is stuck on two, but he got robbed of one with an intentional grounding call as well.

Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier at inside linebacker have notched 3.5 and three, respectively, while Sean Spence has also gotten home once. In the secondary, William Gay has one, while Will Allen has picked up the first two of his career this season. The Steelers also have a ‘team’ sack not credited to anybody as a result of an unforced fumble.

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