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Steelers’ Pass Rush Stunts One Target Area For Improvement

When it comes to the pass rush, and more specifically using stunts to generate pressure, the Pittsburgh Steelers are on opposite ends of the spectrum, according to Ben Stockwell from Pro Football Focus based on some enlightening recent Tweets from a couple of days ago.

While the site tracks all sorts of data, much of it never becomes publicly available, but is rather passed on to their professional clients, who often specifically request data for them to track—those clients being NFL teams, of course.

Stockwell Tweeted lists of the teams that are best and worst at both creating and blocking pressure from stunts during the 2015 season, and the Steelers made it to two of the four lists—one good, and one bad.

According to his data, the Steelers’ offensive line was the second-best in the league in terms of minimizing opposing defenses from gaining pressure on the quarterback using stunts, surrendering pressure on just 33.7 percent of all such pass rushes. Only the Cowboys line gave up a lower percentage of pressures on stunts at 31.7 percent.

The defense, however, fell on the opposite end of the spectrum, as the data collected from PFF indicating that the Steelers’ defense generated pressure on stunts just 40.8 percent of the time, which ranked as the third-worst in the league—curiously, behind the Cowboys, who were the worst, and the Saints as the second-worst, though New Orleans also finished as the fifth-best team in preventing pressure off of stunts.

It is curious that three of the five teams best equipped to prevent pressure on pass rushing stunts were also three of the first worst teams in generating pressure using stunts on defense. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure what might indicate such a correlation being anything more than that. Logically, one might think that if you know how to stop it, you also know how to get around it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, both Kansas City and Jacksonville ranked in the bottom five in terms of the offensive line preventing pressures from stunts. Yet the Chiefs were among the best defensively in creating pressure off stunts, while the Jaguars were among the worst. There likely is no meaningful correlation to be extrapolated.

But what the data does tell us is, at least for the offense, essentially what we already knew. The Steelers were very good overall in pass protection, so it should not be a surprise that they did well in defending stunts. And they should only be better next season.

As far as the defense goes, Pittsburgh finished with one of the highest sack totals in the league, and those sacks came from about a dozen or so different players, who one might think that they might have excelled at creating pressure using stunts.

There is no doubt, however, that the defense still has a way to go in terms of improving the consistency with which they are able to generate pressure. Improving their ability to successfully execute and get home with stunts is evidently one area to target.

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