If you can’t get to the quarterback, the next best thing you can do as a pass rusher is get in the throwing lane. That’s an adage you’ll hear all the time on TV. For the first half of last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line didn’t do that. Through the first nine games, the line deflected just one pass at the line of scrimmage, Week 2 versus Kansas Citty.
That all changed the rest of the season. The last seven games? They deflected seven of them. A trend I want to see continued to start 2019.
Here’s the breakdown of d-line deflections for the entire season.
Stephon Tuitt: 4
Cam Heyward: 3
Javon Hargrave: 1
It’s huge for two reasons.
1. Gets you off the field. Last year, three of those seven deflections came on third down, resulting in incompletions that ended drives. Three more occurred on second down, all leading obviously to 3rd down, and more often than that, they helped stall out drives. Only one drive that had a deflection resulted in the opposing offense ultimately finding the end zone and that came against the Saints, thanks to the incorrect 4th and 1 pass interference call on Joe Haden.
2. It can create the chance for turnovers. That’s what happened versus Oakland last year, which you’ll see below. Mike Hilton missed on the chance but for a defense looking for ways to try to create more splash, this is a way to create “easy” chances for the group. Ball popped into the air, defense has a chance.
Let’s check out those seven deflections. Broke it down into two videos. Not a whole lot I want to discuss with the individual plays. Just pay attention to their awareness and timing to get their hand up in throwing lane. Good technique here.
The rest of them here, including a pair in the loss to the Chargers.
A strong end to the season. With so much talent along the defensive line, the expectation is, as they’ve proven, that Heyward, Tuitt, and Hargrave can impact the game in so many number of ways. Even if they’re not getting to the quarterback, they’re still making plays on the ball.