The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How often will the Steelers blitz a defender and use rushes of five or more players against the Dolphins?
It’s been a long wait since the Steelers’ last game, a win over the Los Angeles Chargers. A long wait to see how the coaching staff puts together a plan to mitigate the loss of Stephon Tuitt, their sixth-year defensive end who was off to the best start of his career.
More than in many years, the defense was managing to get in the backfield to create pressure, and sacks, without using blitzes, rushing only their linemen and edge defenders for the most part, leaving extra defenders to drop back into coverage.
That was because they had the best front four they’ve had in many years, particularly as a pass-rushing group. It wasn’t just Tuitt, but Cameron Heyward continues to play at a high level, and the duo of T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree this season is the best edge-rush tandem they’ve had since the early 2010s.
But not only is Tuitt now done for the season, Watt is dealing with an ab injury. He’s not even sure to play, but if he does, he might be on a pitch count to limit his workload. A front four without Tuitt and Watt is obviously going to struggle to get into the backfield more.
To accommodate, there’s a good chance we see a notable uptick in the use of blitzes. We may see it for the rest of the year, but this game could serve as a good feeling-out point for the rest of the way.