How Much Will The Steelers Blitz The Browns?

For the first time all season, Keith Butler/Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense sent serious heat in Week 6 against the Seattle Seahawks. Now, it’s a question of how much they’ll do it against the Cleveland Browns.

But back to Seattle. Against a backup QB in Geno Smith, the Steelers blitzed 14 of 32 applicable dropbacks (our charting is excluding a handful of RPOs where it’s difficult to determine the rush). That’s 43.8% of the time, a season-high for this defense. Here’s how the weekly numbers have looked:

Week 1 (Bills): 13.2%
Week 2 (Raiders): 30.0%
Week 3 (Bengals): 31.6%
Week 4 (Packers): 30.6%
Week 5 (Broncos): 31.6%
Week 6 (Seahawks): 43.8%

Easily a season high, that 43.8% figure resembling 2020 numbers. And the blitz was effective, generating pressure 8/14 (57.1%) of the time.

But that begs the question. Will Pittsburgh do the same against the Browns? Now that we know Baker Mayfield will start, does the Steeler’s plan change? They’re a team more apt to blitz a backup than a starter but they may want to go after a banged up Mayfield, still dealing with serious shoulder injuries.

Pittsburgh’s defensive mantra is to get pressure and they have the front four to get home. But they are adept at being able to creatively send pressure. As we wrote earlier this year, their defensive style has shifted a bit, blitzing less and playing more zone coverage to compensate for a younger secondary and a unit allowing more big plays than they should. That’s remained, as evident by how the Steelers operated at the end of regulation against the Seahawks, playing almost exclusively soft zone coverage and allowing Geno Smith to throw the ball underneath.

Last year’s data is hard to get a read one. Here’s the Steelers’ blitz rates in all three of their 2020 matchups against the Browns.

Week 6 – 29%
Week 17 – 31.4%
Wild Card – 44.4%

Week 6 was a blowout victory, Week 17 had backups in, leaving the Wild Card as perhaps the best gauge which did see the Steelers aggressively attack.

How often and how effective the Steelers blitz is one of the many numbers we’ll be tracking after this weekend.

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