What is better than one serving of dessert? How about two servings of dessert. That is how it has felt for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season as T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree have been an absolute treat to watch as they have caused utter chaos in the pocket. While it has been great for the Steelers, I am sure that opposing quarterbacks do not feel the same way. Watt and Dupree have been double trouble for quarterbacks this season and Baker Mayfield was the latest to feel their pain.
Mayfield may have woken up on Monday with some serious aches and pains after the Steelers’ pass rushing duo got their fair share of shots on him. Dupree and Watt combined for 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hits last Sunday. There was little doubt that both outside linebackers had an advantage over the Cleveland Browns’ tackles but it was interesting to watch the Browns reach deep into desperation in order to stop them.
Below is a chapter by chapter look at how Watt and Dupree caused the Browns to pull out all the stops.
Chapter 1: T.J. Watt
It was a reunion of sorts for Watt and Chris Hubbard, though I doubt that the Browns’ tackle was looking forward to seeing his former teammate. The third-year outside linebacker got to Mayfield early as he swipes through Hubbard and records a quarterback hit. While Mayfield was able to get rid of the ball before Watt got to him, he would not be so lucky next time around.
Hubbard learned very quickly what he would be up against but there was just nothing he could do to stop Watt. Two players on two different levels, Hubbard just did not have an answer for the Steelers pass rusher and he quickly gave up a sack in the first quarter. Watt fights through Hubbard’s block and gets to Mayfield to record sack number 12.5 on the season.
Chapter 2: Bud Dupree
Well surely the left side of the Cleveland offensive line could not have been as bad as the right side, right? Incorrect. The Browns might as well have installed two revolving doors at the ends of their offensive line as Dupree and Watt had easy access to the pocket all afternoon. Dupree makes an entrance on the play above by just blowing past Justin McCray. It is once again another example of two players on two different skill levels as Dupree’s athleticism is no match for McCray. While he is not able to finish, Cam Sutton fortunately finishes the job he started.
Dupree has had many impressive sacks this season but his strip sack from last Sunday has to be up there as one of his most impressive sacks of his career. If football is really a human chess match then Dupree hit McCray with the ultimate check mate move here. Dupree’s greatest trait is his speed and athleticism, which is why it was a perfect time to hit McCray with an inside spin move. It is executed perfectly as the Browns tackle ends up whiffing on his block and Dupree creates pressure and eventually strips the ball.
Chapter 3: Double Team
Faced with two nearly unblockable forces on each side of their line, the Browns had a decision to make. Most would think that the Browns would be forced to pick their poison. Choose one of Watt or Dupree and double team them with chip blocks and just deal with the other. Well, the Browns chose option C and opted to double team both of the Steelers’ outside linebackers, even if it meant taking a few players of their own out of the game plan.
Two plays are included on the play above. Both see the Browns double team Watt and Dupree by chipping them with either a tight end or running back. On the first play, Kareem Hunt chips Watt while Demetrius Harris chips Dupree before releasing into their routes. On the next play, Hunt takes Dupree while Ricky Seals-Jones takes Watt. The Browns’ plan works here as both pass rushers are slowed but this new game plan does come with some consequences.
Since Hunt and the tight ends are chipping, it takes them a second or two longer to get into their routes. That is significant, especially for Hunt as he looked to be part of the Browns’ passing game in the first half. It is also significant when considering the numbers game. The Steelers rush only four on both plays and with the double team, the Browns are essentially using seven blockers. That leaves just three receivers downfield for Mayfield and seven defenders in coverage for the Steelers. This is an obvious advantage for the Steelers and it shows as both passes fall incomplete.
The Browns could not hold off Dupree and Watt, and in the end, they could not hold off the Steelers’ comeback. Both pass rushers’ play and presence played a big part in the defense rattling Mayfield and company. The Steelers’ pass rush got home and they were not the only ones who got to go home. The Browns too were also sent home with their playoff hopes essentially finished.