The Pittsburgh Steelers have been the dominant defense in the past three years in terms of getting after the quarterback, leading the league in sacks in each year during that span. They got off to a great start on Monday night, and while it ‘only’ produced three sacks—none by an edge defender and only one from a lineman—they were consistently in New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones’ face over the course of the night.
In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, they were the best in the league in Week One in bringing pressure, and it wasn’t particularly close. They credit the defense with generating 37 pressures against the Giants, by far the most of any defense on opening weekend, with the Washington Football Team having 31.
What’s more—and this would hardly be surprising given the result of the other statistic—Jones was under pressure more frequently than any other quarterback. In fact, he was the only quarterback to be under pressure more than half of the time, which is pretty remarkable, facing pressure on 54.2 percent of his dropbacks. Lamar Jackson was actually the only one who was close at 48.3 percent. Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson were next—all three of them mobile quarterbacks who are more likely to put themselves into pressure positions.
Highest percentage of pressured dropbacks in W1:
Daniel Jones – 54.2%
Lamar Jackson – 48.3
Dak Prescott – 42.2
Russell Wilson – 41.0 pic.twitter.com/HHUlks5ON5
— PFF (@PFF) September 17, 2020
Who knew that the Steelers were good at getting after the quarterback? After all, for a while there they were in a slide in the latter stages of the Dick LeBeau era. But with Keith Butler’s more dynamic blitzes and a boost in talent now fronting T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Cameron Heyward, and Stephon Tuitt, it’s all come together to form one of the fiercest units in the NFL.
According to PFF’s grading, Dupree led the Steelers with eight pressures on the night, including one hit, Watt right behind him with two hits among his seven total pressures. Tuitt and Heyward combined for nine more pressures, the former one ahead of the latter.
There was a smattering of contributions throughout, as well, from Mike Hilton and Vince Williams, who each registered a sack, as well as Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Alex Highsmith, Chris Wormley, and Isaiah Buggs. Even Tyson Alualu got a hit on the quarterback among his two pressures.
And there really is no reason to believe that they can’t keep it up. Jones’ average time to throw was really quite average. But they also generated the fastest pressure, by a good margin. Again, according to PFF, they generated 22 of their 37 pressures within 2.5 seconds. Nobody was close. Washington and the Chargers each had 14.
Most pressures generated within 2.5 seconds in W1:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers – 22
2. Los Angeles Chargers – 14
2. Washington Football Team – 14
4. Kansas City Chiefs – 12 pic.twitter.com/IqYWzGx8W9
— PFF (@PFF) September 17, 2020
The combined talent and scheme make the Steelers one of the premiere pass-rushing units in the NFL, and sacks don’t tell the full story by a large margin. After all, Dupree didn’t have a sack on the night, but one of his pressures caused a red-zone takeaway.