The Pittsburgh Steelers are, and have been, one of the best pass-rushing teams over the course of the past few years. They led the league in sacks in both 2017 and 2018, in the former also establishing a new franchise record in the process. This year, even after their bye, they are still among the top teams in sacks produced.
But they will have to move forward with one of their top players in the front seven, with Stephon Tuitt lost for the year. I think it would be fair to say that Tuitt’s having really come on over the course of the past calendar year has been the driving force behind the defense’s ability to focus on a front-four pass rush more recently, and scheming pressure less, leaving them with a wider variety of tools to employ on the back end for coverage.
And so as we get to the other side of the bye week, the focus shifts somewhat from the front four to the rest of the defense and what they can contribute to the pass rush over the course of the next 10 games. The good news is that they’ve done if before.
Back in 2017, for example, the Steelers had 15 different defenders contribute at least one sack, and of those 15, six of them were among those who played off the ball. Vince Williams led in that category with eight, which was also the second-most on the team. In all, they got 16 sacks from blitzing off-ball players.
This year so far, their 20 sacks have come from 10 different players, only three of whom—their three inside linebackers that they rotate—having even half a sack. The three of them have combined to contribute two and a half sacks to the cause so far. That will change, if you believe Mike Tomlin.
“What we need is consistent pressure on the quarterback”, he told reporters earlier this week during his pre-draft press conference. “Our words and our actions have always indicated that we’re a group that doesn’t care where that comes from, whether it’s defensive line, outside linebackers, inside linebackers”.
“As a matter of fact, we take a conscious effort to make sure that we have an opportunity to spread some of that out over multiple positions in an effort to be a moving target”, he added. “We pride ourselves in having a versatile rush and bringing a multitude of people from a number of positions. Thus might be the case as we work to minimize the absence of Stephon Tuitt”.
They’ve had extra time with the bye week to get into the lab and put together some more of those blitzes that have been effective over the course of the past couple of years. Monday night against the Miami Dolphins will be their first chance to show it in 2019.