The Pittsburgh Steelers, outside of the season opener against a Cleveland Browns team still very much trying to figure out who they are on the offensive side of the ball, have admittedly gotten some tough draws to start the season. Facing Patrick Mahomes and a red-hot Ryan Fitzpatrick in back-to-back weeks was less than ideal. And Joe Flacco has been having a very strong season for the Baltimore Ravens with an entirely new group of wide receivers.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler has noticed. “Seems like we’re playing against the best quarterbacks in the league and the best daggum receivers in the league”, he told reporters during the week, according to Will Graves of the Associated Press.
But he also said that he believes “it’s gonna help us in the long run. Right now, I wish we didn’t have to play against them. But we’re learning from it. I think we’re getting better”.
This week, they get to face one of the top quarterback-wide receiver duos in the league with the Atlanta Falcons. Even though they come in with a 1-3 record, even worse than Pittsburgh, quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones are quite nearly the best in the business. And rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley has become a touchdown machine.
Said Butler of Ryan, “we played him four years ago, we blitzed the stew out of him back then”. Ryan was not sacked in that game and he had a quarterback rating over 100 with two touchdowns and an interception. “He’s seen all the blitzes. He’s not going to be fooled”.
The Steelers’ defensive coordinator has not been shy about trying out a variety of blitzes and stunts this year, either. He has put quite a number of different looks on tape, so it’s hard to imagine any of their opponents will have not seen something at this point, though just what they might end up seeing in any particular game could be a bigger issue for them.
The Falcons have had a fairly average showing by their offensive line so far this season in pass protection, outside of Jake Matthews. Even Alex Mack has struggled so far, giving up a couple of sacks, but he is a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
Meanwhile, the Steelers’ pass rush has cooled considerably since the season opener. They have 13 on the season—on pace for 52 for the season—but just over half of those sacks were compiled against the Browns in the opener. They have only been averaging two sacks per game since then.