2016 South Side Questions: Will We See More Blitzing After Bye Week?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Will the Steelers turn to the blitz more after the bye week in order to try to ignite the pass rush?

It hasn’t been much of a secret that the Steelers have struggled to pressure the quarterback this season. You just have to look at the stat sheet to see that they only have eight sacks on the season, which is the lowest total in the entire league.

As a team, Pittsburgh didn’t really have all that much of a different set of players to get after the quarterback last season than they do this season, nor could it be said that there has been an obvious diminishing of talent from that group.

Yet they are only on pace for about 18 or so sacks this year, when they had 48 a year ago—30 more, which is a pretty big difference. The difference, schematically? The Steelers blitzed an awful lot more than they are doing this year.

Keith Butler recently said that part of the reason that the team is blitzing less is because they have a young secondary that he doesn’t want to expose too much by putting them on an island when a blitz comes from their side and they are forced into man coverage.

But if the defense can’t get to the quarterback, then he is going to have all day to wait for his man to beat that young defensive back and catch the pass anyway. So there has to be some risk-taking in order to get the job done, I would think.

The bye week is a time when teams have the opportunity to take stock of how they have performed over the course of the season, and how they can change things to fix whatever problems there might be, as well as to identify things that have worked that are underutilized.

The lack of pass rush is one obvious problem that needs to be fixed, and an underutilization of a blitz scheme that I think has generally been effective should be noted as well. What remains to be seen is whether or not we actually see this change on the field.

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