If you follow the NFL Matchup on ESPN Twitter account you probably saw them tweet out a stat a few days ago about which teams are blitzing the most/least so far this season. That tweet, which you can see below, shows that the Pittsburgh Steelers currently lead the NFL in percentage of defensive snaps against the pass in which five or more rushers were sent. Specifically, they have the Steelers at 37%.
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) November 28, 2018
Our very own Alex Kozora also charts these same stats for the site every week and while his numbers dont exactly match the ones posted recently by ESPN, they are very close. In fact, he has the Steelers down for sending five or more rushers 158 times (34.9%) out of 453 plays. If you exclude 17 quarterback scrambles, the percentage jumps to 36.2%. At the very least, our charting data is close to ESPN’s.
Merely giving the total percentages of times the Steelers have sent five or more pass rushers doesn’t tell the complete story, however. With that noted, we can dive deeper into our charting data to pass along the effectiveness rates of those five-man rushes the Steelers have had to date.
According to our charting, the Steelers have registered 15 of their 39 total sacks this season when five or more pass rushers have been sent after the opposing quarterback. Additionally, four of the team’s 6 total interceptions have come on plays in which more than four pass rushers were sent.
If you are curious about how successful opposing offenses have been against the Steelers defense when facing five or more rushers, we have that data available as well. According to our charting, opposing offenses have registered 70 (44.3%) successful passing plays on the 158 times the Steelers defense has sent five or more pass rushers after the quarterback so far this season. Curiously enough, 12 of those 70 successful plays resulted in touchdowns with two coming this past Sunday in the team’s loss road loss to the Denver Broncos.
On the 32 third and fourth down plays that the Steelers defense has sent five or more pass rushers on, only 11 (34.4%) of them were successful ones.
Obviously, we don’t know where the Steelers success rates compare to other teams when five or more pass rushers are sent so it’s hard to measure if they should send more numbers less. Because of that, the ESPN percentage numbers are very hollow overall.