Week 13: Defensive Sack Review

Time for our weekly installment of the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive sack review, and we’ve got five sacks of Colts quarterbacks to look at, including a hat trick by James Harrison to run his season total to five. First however, it was Will Allen getting the big day started for the Steelers pass rush, coming unblocked off the blindside to drop Matt Hasselbeck from behind.

Five-man rush vs. six-man protection, but the Steelers disguise the blitz extremely well. Looks like a five man pressure initially with the defenders on the line of scrimmage, but at the last minute Allen flies up into the box right before the snap, coming in free off the edge.


Away side linebacker Arthur Moats drops, and the entire defensive line slants to the gap to their left, drawing the blockers’ attention that way. Free pass for Allen, who left tackle Joe Reitz never even sees coming off the edge.

This is just a veteran play by Allen, disguising his blitz until the last second, and timing up his rush well with the snap. Had he tipped his hand, the Colts would have slid protection to the right, but because Hasselbeck and co. didn’t identity him as a potential blitzer pre-snap, Allen gets the unblocked sack, his second of the season (and, as Alex Kozora pointed out, of his entire career, college included).

All of the other Pittsburgh sacks came in the fourth quarter, with pass rushers admittedly teeing off because the Colts were forced to throw while attempting to cut into a massive deficit. Harrison took advantage of this fact with a field day against Reitz.

Five-man rush vs. six-man protection, but this one is more about an individual win than anything schematically. Harrison simply blows by Reitz, using his patented rip move to establish leverage after warding off the lineman’s punch.

Few pass rushers in NFL history have ever converted speed-to-power with the consistency of Harrison, a trait he again displayed on sack #2.

Harrison’s hands shoot inside right away, putting Reitz on skates with the bull rush. Because Arthur Moats whips Denzelle Good around the edge on the opposite side, Charlie Whitehurst has to step up in the pocket, where Harrison is there to meet him.

With the Colts threatening to end the Steelers second half shutout of their offense, Harrison again came up big. Four-man rush vs. six-man protection, but good coverage down field and a relentless pursuit from Harrison seals the hat-trick for the veteran.

Check out the ridiculous bend from Harrison at 37 years old. What incredible flexibility and balance.


Uses both hands to incinerate Reitz’s punch, then bends the edge with an incredible shoulder dip before chasing down Whitehurst from behind. Just an outstanding, dominant performance from one of the all-time greats.

Moats capped off an exceptional performance by the Steelers front seven, ejecting Good from the pocket with a ferocious bull rush. Look at the raw power to propel a 6’7, 320-pound man aside like chaff.

Uses his right arm to leverage the tackle’s left arm, shoving it upward and knocking the rookie off balance. Moats is really the only Steelers edge rusher that loves to counter inside when the opportunity is there, winning the above-the-neck game that Tomlin talks about so often.

Moats is so crafty as a pass rusher, making up for his lack of elite movement skills and athleticism by setting offensive linemen up for failure. Rushed outside and won the edge on the preceding snaps, forcing Good to overset to avoid giving up the corner. As soon as the tackle overcompensates, a fully-prepared Moats blows by him inside for the sack. Intelligent, fundamentally-sound football from the defender who I believe has been the most underrated player on Pittsburgh’s unit.

The Steelers two best pass rushers this season have quite easily been Moats and Harrison, which is likely why Tomlin let the duo go to work for 37 snaps on Sunday, the vast majority of which came in the second half. By comparison, Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones were only on the field for 21 snaps Sunday. We’ll see if that trend continues moving forward, but Sunday was pretty strong evidence of the fact that the veterans remain ahead of the young bucks as pass rushers – for now.

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