Mike Tomlin is a head coach full of cliches, but cliches are a useful landmark in such a profession to help drive home certain core ideas and make them easy to grasp and embrace. The standard is the standard. Don’t ride the emotional rollercoaster. The more you can do.
The latter especially applies to certain positions whose former relevance have faded in recent years. A couple of years back, Tomlin talked about how nose tackle Javon Hargrave had ‘diversified his portfolio in becoming an adept pass rusher at what has traditional been a run-stuffing position.
He said that Vince Williams, whom he refers to as a “9-on-7 linebacker”, has without question done the same over recent years, adding to his arsenal by strengthening his ability to blitz, as evidenced by the fact that he has two sacks on the season already.
“Those 9-on-7 linebackers, that’s what I commonly refer to Vince as, they need to find things to do as people spread you out and things of that nature, and what Vince has done is add to his rush repertoire”, he told reporters earlier this evening.
“You see it play out in terms of statistics. He’s been a bigtime component of our pass rush more recently. That’s what I mean when I say ‘diversify’, he’s adding to his toolbox if you will, and so that’s why we’re able to utilize him maybe in even more circumstances than we have in recent years”.
He and nickel corner Mike Hilton have both been an important supplementary asset to the Steelers’ pass rush over the past three-plus seasons, combining to contribute dozens of sacks between the two of them in that span from non-traditional rushing positions.
While the Steelers till value the traditional four-man rush, as evidenced by their blitzing percentage dropping steeply in week three playing against Deshaun Watson, they also understand that the more ways you can get after the passer, and the more you can give opponents to think about, the better off you’ll be. The best pass-rush move is unpredictability.
Through three games, Pittsburgh leads the league with 15 sacks, which has hardly been against the norm. they have led in sacks over the past three seasons, both collectively and in each individual year, averaging 54 sacks per season during that span with a high—and team record—of 56 sacks in 2018.
Although it’s still very early in the year, they are trending to record over 50 sacks again this season, needing 35 to hit that number over the final 13 games. The contributions of players like Williams are what helps to push them over the top.