2017 South Side Questions: How Will Defense Pressure Tom Brady?

The regular season is now over, 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 postseason 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 playoffs as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to playoff success, in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: How will the Steelers get pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady?

It’s not exactly a secret that if you don’t get pressure on Tom Brady on defense, then you’re going to have a bad day. Perhaps better than anybody else who has ever played the game, Brady is a quarterback who can pick apart a defense all day as long as he is able to just stand in the pocket and read the coverage and find the open targets. Plus, he can hit all the throws, on top of that.

But get a little bit of pressure in his face, and, at least at times, he can be like a completely different quarterback. He is not a very mobile player at all and is not built for operating on the fly or flushing out of the pocket. This isn’t exactly a secret, but it’s awfully difficult to actually get him in those uncomfortable positions.

The Patriots rely upon a short passing game, primarily, which has been especially the case since Rob Gronkowski was lost for the season, so that means quick-release rhythm passing, and it’s very difficult to get a rusher home in time to disrupt those sorts of throws.

But if you can get just enough to get Brady to shift his release point, it can have an effect. Even Jarvis Jones has had some solid pass-rushing games against Patriots left tackle Nate Solder. You would hope that James Harrison would be able to have similar success, and he does have a sack or more in each of the first two preseason games.

Of course, whenever this topic comes up, the answer always shifts toward interior pressure, since it’s the quickest way to get into the backfield. But the Steelers don’t seem to have really gotten a lot of interior pressure lately, and that could be a concern.

It would not surprise me to see a lot of inside linebacker blitzes peppering the A Gaps from the defense tomorrow night. Not even to bring an extra rusher, but just to bring that body type right up the gut. I feel like it might be their most successful approach to pressuring Brady. But we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

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