Pittsburgh, We Have A Pass Rushing Problem

14 sacks. That’s all.

14 sacks.

What you’re looking at is the number of sacks from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ outside linebackers in 2015. Remember when that was the goal by a single player? Joey Porter’s 10.5 in 2005. LaMarr Woodley’s 13.5 in 2009? James Harrison’s 16 in 2008,

Good times, good times.

Too bad they feel like a lifetime ago.

Harrison “leads” this current year of outside linebackers with five. Three of those came in the final quarter of an already blown-out win over the Colts. He’s still shown the ability to take over games, and to have even one sack at 37 is no small feat, but that performance aside, he’s been quiet.

Bud Dupree raced out to a fast start, three sacks in his first five games. But he’s not only encountered the rookie wall, he’s slammed into it. His last sack came in November 1st and on tape, it actually looks like he’s regressing.

Jarvis Jones can’t be expected to get many sacks because he is asked to drop into coverage so often, and his impact as an edge rusher is minimal with two takedowns. If he can’t get one in Week 17, those two will tie his career high which tells you all you need to know.

And Arthur Moats has only three, half of those coming in the first three weeks.

Over the last three games, this group has failed to record a single sack. Not one. Nada. Zero. Zilch. 123 opposing pass attempts from the last, Moats’ sack on the next-to-last play in the Colts’ win.

Let me preface by saying sacks aren’t the say-all, end-all. Pressure can be just as important. But if you’ve been watching, and I know you have, you know that has been just as faint. Sacks just allow you to frame the issue with a number.

It’s not for a lack of trying. Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree are both first round picks. SEC kids with high pedigrees.

It might be time to reinvest in the position. I know, I know. Already.

Dupree will get better. He’s a rookie struggling with rookie-like things. I’m not dogging him. But what can you expect from anyone else on this roster? Moats is at his ceiling, Harrison is in his twilight, and Jones isn’t being projected by anyone as a premier pass rusher.

Compounding the problem, they all are likely to come back. Jones, Moats, and Dupree are locks while it’s looking like Deebo has plans to return. If he does, there’s four spots locked up. Throw in Anthony Chickillo and it’s hard to envision the Steelers adding in a high-profile addition. Are the Steelers stuck to deal with the same issues in 2016, handicapping this defense yet again?

The formula to success isn’t hidden. This isn’t Coca-Cola. When the Steelers have great edge rushers, they win games. They make the playoffs. They win Super Bowls. In the six playoff seasons since 2005, the Steelers’ sack leader averages 10.3 per season. In the four non-playoff years, that number dips to 8.6. If the Steelers want to be a success, they’re going to need to find a way to improve.

If only it was the lone defensive area to address. You can make a case the Steelers need to add at cornerback, safety, and depth along the defensive line just as badly. Pick your poison. Help one area, be forced to neglect another.

So what’s the answer? Bite the bullet, draft an OLB within the first two rounds? Hope you can figure the rest of the defense out? Or do you hope you get a little lucky in 2016 and have someone like Dupree develop into a ten sack type of guy? Is that worth being content with Jones and Harrison combining for seven sacks, max?

It’s a difficult, complex problem. And one that count haunt the Steelers again a year from now.

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