Throughout the Pittsburgh Steelers season I will be doing a weekly piece on an intriguing matchup to watch for each game. The focus will be on choosing important battle for the upcoming game and give you some background information that could be something to keep an eye on come game time. For example, it could focus on key players on each team that will be going head to head or how a defense will try to stop a specific player.
Last week we took a look an inside defender and for the most part the Steelers did a good job containing Aaron Donald. This week I’m looking to the outside of the defensive line at a young disruptive pass rusher.
Steelers Tackles vs Myles Garrett
The third year defensive end and former number one pick overall has performed well up to this point in his career. His rookie year got off to a delayed start dealing with a high ankle sprain causing him to miss the first four games but he was able to put up 7 sacks and 18 QB hits in his first year. He followed that up in 2018 starting every game and corralling 13.5 sacks and 29 QB hits. This year he’s on pace to have his best year yet with 10 sacks through 9 games and is on pace to set career highs in total tackles and tackles for a loss. He has the most sacks from anyone in the 2017 draft class and has just one more than T.J. Watt.
I was surprised to see he had 10 sacks as I haven’t heard much mentioned about him with the Browns getting out to a 3-6 start. That’s a great start for him considering he hasn’t recorded a sack in the last two weeks. In three games vs Pittsburgh he has 4 sacks, 10 tackles and 3 forced fumbles.
Who’s got him?
Cleveland’s base defense is a 4-3 with Larry Ogunjobi, Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon joining Garrett on the defensive line. Vernon missed last week’s game with a knee injury.
Garrett will line up on both sides generally anywhere from the 5 technique out to the edge. He will mix up his pass rushes and uses his hands well to chop and slap at the blockers. This year he has had some success rushing the passer using a rip, a spin and speed to power bull rush. Assuming Ramon Foster will be back this week that means Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler will for the most part have the task of keeping Garrett out of the backfield
Plan of Attack
As always it’s a group effort to keep the quarterback clean and offense moving so what can they do?
Running Game/Play Action – If you’re running the ball Garrett can’t get any sacks. The Browns have allowed 1,214 yards rushing this season (134.8 yards per game). James Conner and Foster will hopefully be back for the Thursday night matchup and that should help the running game. If you can run the ball, play action will also help (if you don’t do it in your own end zone) to stall the pass rushers giving Mason Rudolph time.
Quick Passes/Pocket Mobility – These are two areas where Rudolph has not been at his best. Watching bits of the three games where Garrett did not record a sack all three teams used the running game and/or quick passes. Rudolph needs to get to his spot and get the ball out quickly which will hopefully lead to more rhythm and timing with the receivers. When he is in the pocket he needs to feel the rush and slide to the open areas. I give him a lot of credit for standing in there but if he can get outside and extend a few times a game it could benefit everybody.
Tight End Help/Chipping – I’ve mentioned it before that I like the chip on the edge. You hit a guy in the ribs when he isn’t looking early in the game and he’ll have it on his mind the rest of the game. I’ve read some coaches and tackles don’t like the help as it could push the defender to the inside of the blocker causing the OT to be at a disadvantage. If the tackles know help is coming they should be able to adjust. You can also use TE’s to double Garrett and release as the safety valve.
A Look at Garrett
Spin – At New England, Garrett (95) is lined up on the left of the screen against Marshall Newhouse (72). He’s going to take two hard steps up the outside, plant and spin to the inside right into the lap of Tom Brady (12)
Stab/Spin – Vs Seattle, Garrett is lined up in a 2 point stance over the extra lineman Joey Hunt (53). This is play action and a coverage sack. He’ll use a good stab to jolt the OL and spin inside to wrap up Russell Wilson (3)
Speed to Bull – At New York Jets, he is lined up the right side and will use a speed to bull against Kelvin Beachem. He’ll take three strides up field before turning into Beachem, putting hands to his chest and uses leverage to drive him back to the QB.
Rip – Vs Tennessee, he is on the left side of the screen here and will Rip with his left arm under the LT tackle and shows good bend around the corner to get the sack and draw the holding call.