Film Room: L.J. Fort Blitzes Matt Ryan

The Pittsburgh Steeler have been keeping L.J. Fort on the shelf for a while. He saw his most extensive playing time on Sunday with Vince Williams out, however, and was effective. But he didn’t leave unscathed, and appears set to miss the team’s next game with a hamstring injury.

While he played a good game all around, I am for this moment most interested in his blitzing. He blitzed a handful of times, registering three pressures, including a sack, and one pseudo-blitz (after the running back stayed in to pass protect) led to him recovering a fumble for a touchdown.

We might as well start at the beginning. About nine minutes into the first quarter, the Atlanta Falcons faced a third and six, and with Fort blitzing on a slight delay, Matt Ryan showed vintage Peyton Manning form in turtling under the pressure.

Fundamentally, there was nothing special about this blitz and can be attributed to the line’s failure to adjust their slide protection. They ended up having two blockers—a tight end and a running back—to account for three rushes off the offensive left side, which is not ideal.

Into the second quarter, Fort got another opportunity to come after Ryan on a third and medium. This time the running back stayed in to meet the linebacker through the gap, but Fort was able to scrape inside of him and put pressure on the quarterback, who still got off the pass for a first down.

The defense blitzed heavily late in the closing moments of the game, with Fort coming on back-to-back plays. On the first of the two, he was schemed to rush into the far game, giving Ryan a shot as he threw a deep ball that Artie Burns nearly intercepted.

It was on the next play that T.J .Watt was able to get Ryan from behind, jarring the ball loose. Fort was able to focus on the quarterback once the running back stayed in to protect, which helped put him in position to recover the fumble in the end zone.

He was also effective against the run and in coverage, but that may be his only opportunity. Not only does he look to be sidelined this week, Williams has returned and will resume his role as an every-down linebacker.

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