It was a familiar sight on Sunday in Green Bay: Pittsburgh Steelers’ star outside linebacker T.J. Watt facing a chip out of the backfield and consistent double teams when trying to get after Packers’ star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
With Watt receiving so much attention in the game, other pass rushers had to have eaten throughout the game, right?
The Steelers recorded just one sack and seven hurries outside of Watt’s two-sack day, which was the quietest two-sack game of his career.
That has to change moving forward, according to Steelers’ defensive coordinator Keith Butler, who spoke to the media Thursday during his weekly availability.
Asked if Watt can get frustrated as a player with so much attention paid to him, Butler didn’t mince words when it came to addressing the other pass rushers on the team.
“Yeah, sure you can. He’s drawing attention and there’s a reason he’s drawing attention. It’s because he gets a lot of sacks, he gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback. So, what are they gonna do? They’re gonna double him, they’re gonna chip out on him, they’re gonna motion to him or align to him and try to get outside further to get him away from the ball. They do a lot of things,” Butler said, according to the official transcript. “The offense will do a lot of things to try to take care of him. And when that happens, we’ve got to pick it up elsewhere. Alex Highsmith’s got to do better, Melvin [Ingram]’s got to do better in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback at that point in time. So, we’ve got to take some of that pressure off him and give them other people to worry about.”
In Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills that wasn’t much of a problem.
Now though, with Watt and Highsmith working back from groin injuries, and the Steelers without Tyson Alualu along the defensive line and still missing Stephon Tuitt, the pass rush has stagnated a bit, forcing the Steelers to blitz more. While that worked with Devin Bush sacking Rodgers on a free blitz in Sunday’s loss, it can’t be counted on every week considering the talent the Steelers can deploy at outside linebacker to get after the quarterback with four-man rushes.
That was all the rage coming out of the Week 1 win, considering how the Steelers got after the Buffalo Bills and star quarterback Josh Allen with just four pass rushers, allowing the Steelers to drop seven into coverage and clog up passing lanes. That hasn’t happened since, and if Butler wants to be able to do that again, a banged up front seven must get back to winning individually, especially with Watt receiving so much attention.