The three quarterbacks involved in the Pittsburgh Steelers next and last game all have one thing, at least, in common. That is, all three of them have very good pass-blocking offensive lines this season. Ben Roethlisberger, the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, and the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees have been among the least-pressured quarterbacks in the entire league this year.
While it helps that all three of them are savvy veterans who have adjusted over time to getting rid of the ball quicker, and thus making it less of a necessity for the line to sustain blocks for a long period of time, the bottom line is that these are groups that are good at protecting their most prized possession.
Though the Steelers only officially sacked Brady once last week, however, the defense was strong throughout the night in putting pressure on him and in coming up with a hurry or a hit in a big moment, including a pivotal late red zone interception.
“I just felt like we were in a groove all night long”, said second-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt, the owner of that one sack, his 11th of the season. “I liked my match-up. A lot of guys liked their match-ups that they had and we were able to get to him and just affect his throwing”.
Added Joe Haden, the man who benefitted from a pressure by Watt to pick Brady off in the fourth quarter, “they had Tom feeling a little uncomfortable, kind of throwing a little off balance”, as he clearly did on that turnover.
That is the sort of success that the Steelers are going to have to try to mirror in New Orleans against Brees, but that will be no easy task. Perhaps there is some hope with respect to the instability at left tackle.
Terron Armstead is their primary starter but has missed the past five games due to injury. The man who had been replacing him is out for tomorrow’s game, but Armstead returns—yet with just one practice under his belt. Assuming that he does indeed play, he could well be rusty, which is something Keith Butler ought to want to exploit.
Stephon Tuitt is coming off one of his best games of the season as an interior pass-rusher, which included not only a couple of quarterback hits but also two holding penalties drawn during the evening. The front seven and the pass rush as a whole will have to get pressure in Brees’ face as they did to Brady in order to have much of any hope of coming out of New Orleans with a win.
“It has to be sustainable for us to be successful”, Cameron Heyward said. “Either we’re getting the sacks or the pressure and forcing bad passes. We have to be able to do it whether it’s at home or on the road because we’re playing good quarterbacks”.