You may be inclined to say that even though Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Javon Hargrave is seeing the lion’s share of defensive line reps that Cameron Heyward is no longer taking, that it is actually Ricardo Mathews that is his direct replacement.
If you look at the first snap of the game, however, you may revisit that view. Mathews actually lined up at nose tackle—and made a tackle in the backfield for a loss of two yards, it should probably be noted—with Hargrave playing at right defensive end. Or, at least, the equivalent of the position, because they played skewed to the right, with Hargrave over the center’s left shoulder.
That’s a look they showed half a dozen times or so in the limited snaps in which they actually used three defensive linemen, though that is neither really here nor there. This is just about Hargrave and his effectiveness as a pass rusher during the game.
His first real impact on the pass rush was also his most significant, since it resulted in the first sack of his career. On the first play of the second quarter, lined up over the left guard, he worked the lineman into the center, who was engaging Stephon Tuitt, before looping around the right side of the center. He showed great burst and agility for a big man to close on the sack.
Hargrave also found himself a presence—albeit late—on a few of the Steelers’ other sacks throughout the day, and might have been able to notch another sack or two had a teammate not managed to get there before he did.
On Arthur Moats’ sack, for example, though it was a long-developing play, I do like the hand-fighting and hustle that he showed on the play, first working the center before moving inside. He gave the right guard a good punch to create a gap and gained penetration before the center got him on the ground.
Early in the fourth quarter, the nose tackle looked to have a clear path to the quarterback with the center focusing more on the right defensive end at the start of the play. Once Hargrave began to slip into the backfield, the center held him. He still nearly got home on the play, but it netted a holding penalty all the same.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Hargrave was just late on another sack when Lawrence Timmons got there first. This actually looked much like the play on which he did get the quarterback down, looping around inside the right side of the center and showing surprising burst and athleticism in doing so.
Tuitt was also blatantly held on the play, by the way, which I note here because I know somebody is going to note it in the comments section anyway. Hargrave did show some intriguing potential as a pass rusher against the Browns. Of course, there is still plenty more to work on in his game, especially in terms of run defense.