The Steelers front seven is coming off of a great performance where they accounted for four sacks and a forced fumble. However they would be playing a much better offense than they did against Cleveland. The Steelers would need to generate pass rush to knock quarterback A.J. McCarron out of rhythm. Perhaps more importantly is the front sevens performance against the run. The easiest way to make a quarterback feel comfortable is to aid him by a dominant run game. A.J. Green has had a field day against the Steelers secondary in the past and the pressure from the front seven could support a less than adequate secondary.
5T- Cam Heyward- 4 exceptional plays, 0 negative, (+4) 4 QB Hits, 1 QB pressure, 1 sack, 1 FF
5T-Stephon Tuitt- 2 exceptional plays, 1 negative (+1)
NT-Steve McLendon- 0 exceptional, 0 negative (even)
OLB-James Harrison- 3 exceptional, 0 negative (+3) 1 sack, 1 QB pressure
OLB-Bud Dupree- 4 exceptional, 0 negative (+4) 1 TFL
OLB-Arthur Moats- 1 exceptional, 0 negative (+1)
OLB-Jarvis Jones- 1 exceptional, 2 negative (-1) 1 sack, 1 FF
ILB-Ryan Shazier- 6 exceptional, 1 negative (+5) 2 TFL, 2 PD, 2 FF, and 1 QB hit, 1 QB pressure
ILB-Lawrence Timmons– 1 exceptional, 1 negative (even)
1st and 10 midway through the first quarter; Cincinnati comes out with 11 personnel, and the tight end to the left. This Steelers counter with their nickel look. The Bengals attempt a 24 zone play. Tuitt controls his man and pushes him back two to three yards. Moats seals the outside and establishes a strong edge forcing the play inside. All the while Harrison crosses face of the tight end and eliminates any cut back lanes.
Once again the Bengals spread the Steelers out and force the defense into a nickel formation. The Bengals run a 23 dive right up the middle, but because Tuitt gets blown off the ball it makes an easy cut back for running back Jeremy Hill. Shazier also gets caught up in the double team as he attempts to scrape over the top. One nice move by Hill and he’s off to the races.
Nearing the end of the second quarter the Bengals have the ball close to midfield. They once again spread the Steelers out and try to run the ball against the nickel defense. This time however Cincinnati calls for the power play and pulls both guards to the right. Right tackle Andre Smith gets a good down block on Tuitt and effectively walls him from the play. However that hardly matters as rookie outside linebacker Bud Dupree blows past the tight end Tyler Eifert and makes the sure tackle for loss. Jarvis Jones closes from the back side to eliminate any cut back options and Hill is effectively bottled up.
At their own thirty-six yard line the Cincinnati Bengals decide to dial up a draw play. Once again the Steelers are in a nickel set and both defensive tackles are lined up heads up on the guard. This creates a natural hole directly behind the center that the Bengals exploit on this play. Two very solid blocks by the guards and a nice wall at the second level by the center allow Bernard quite a bit of grass to operate with.
Late in the fourth quarter the Bengals have the ball at the Steelers forty-five when they decide to spread the Steelers once again. The Steelers rush four and drop seven. Pressure with only four was not a problem on this play as Harrison gets underneath the pads of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and runs right through him on the way to the QB. AJ McCarron steps up and dodges Harrison but quickly gets hit from behind by Moats. A great amount of pressure in only 2.7 seconds from a four man rush result in a short gain.
Once again the Steelers front seven shows up in a big way. This defensive front has seemingly been getting stronger every week. Heyward continues to be a disruptive force collapsing the pocket as well as a stalwart against the run. The big plays continue to come from all over the field though.
Harrison has apparently found the fountain of youth and has been flashing dominance. The young guys continue to step up as well. Tuitt was solid as always but a trio of LBs stole the show. Jones made his most impactful play as a Steeler when he forced a strip on a sack. Dupree flashed all the round one talent and athleticism. What gets lost with Dupree is his hustle, with his athleticism and desire, it is only a matter of time before he breaks out. What can be said about Shazier? That guy is literally all over the field, as long as he’s on it. Two forced fumbles, including one of the most clutch in Steelers history to go with his thirteen tackles.
This front seven unit must continue to show up and dominate the line of scrimmage if the Steelers hope to escape Denver with a win. Making the Broncos one-dimensional is one of the most important aspects of this upcoming game. That will allow the front seven and Coach Butler a chance to pin their ears back and hunt. Getting pressure on the Broncos QB is a must, and it’s very possible against a more than suspect OL.