The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line is among the best in football. Unlike a decade or two ago, they’re a unit capable of putting up impressive box score totals. Stephon Tuitt is third on the team with four sacks, just one behind team leader Bud Dupree. But Tuitt knows the d-line can make as many plays that don’t show up on the box score either. Taking on double-teams, doing the dirty work to hold the point of attack and free up the linebackers behind.
“In our type of defense, it’s a lot of those [double-teams],” Tuitt told reporters Thursday. “That’s just how we roll. That’s how we run our defense and to be able to hold up two guys for our linebackers to slide through and make the play in the backfield. And that’s a plus. That’s a great job. And to keep the guard off the back is a plus too as well. So there’s a lot of things that’s not really pretty on stat sheets that you could see, but we doing a lot of those things on film.”
Turn on the tape and you’ll see evidence of it on a weekly basis. A few weeks ago, we pointed it out with NT Tyson Alualu, not allowing himself to be reached which freed up Vince Williams to make the TFL.
It can even be more subtle than that. Cam Heyward is one of football’s best “crashers” on stunts, the player asked to shoot the gap to influence the guard and allow the looper to come in behind and get free. Heyward knows all the veteran tricks, like grabbing the back of the tackles’ jersey to ensure he occupies both blockers and allow Dupree to get free.
The Steelers’ defensive line has the rare combination of top end athleticism with big-play ability and total selflessness, getting just as excited for someone else to make the play.
When offenses decide to double-team, that comes at the expense for someone else along the line being singled up, allowing another linemen to make a play too. That especially shows on pass plays. Double Tuitt and Heyward is left isolated on the guard. And vice versa.
“It’s a great defensive front,” Tuitt said. “It’s a lot of great guys along that defensive front. It’s hard to double team everybody. What comes with that is just their game plan, whoever they choose [to double] or whoever has the hot hand. You have to because other than that, you just don’t be running one receiver at maxing everybody.”