Earlier this week we looked at third round pick DeMarvin Leal and his pass rushing performance in college. Now let’s take a closer look at his teammate from Texas A&M who was signed as an UDFA by the Steelers, EDGE Tyree Johnson.
Johnson played four seasons at Texas A&M and the past three along with Leal. Research showed Leal was able to generate most of his sacks on early downs. Of his 13 career sacks as an Aggie, 11 of them came on either first or second down. Might’ve found a good reason as to why Leal’s sack numbers were low on late downs, third down specifically. The answer being none other than Tyree Johnson.
Over the course of Johnson’s college career, 14 of his 17 sacks came on third down. Based on his numbers below, Johnson’s performance on third down is astounding.
The 18.6% win rate and 18.0% pressure rate are considerably higher than those of early downs. Regarding the 14 sacks on the money down, Johnson ranked 2nd among draft eligible EDGE rushers to Jeffrey Gunter of Coastal Carolina who had 15.
Let’s dig a bit further on how Johnson fared on third down by distance in terms of line to gain for the offense.
Johnson’s highest pressure rate is 10 or more yards. This is also when offenses are typically in an obvious passing down. When combining the numbers to make it 6+ yards, Johnson’s pressure rate of 19% is still quite high and ranked 27th among 129 draft eligible EDGE rushers (minimum 100 snaps).
The Steelers and their success in leading the league in sacks in each of past five seasons is well documented. What’s somewhat surprising however is the dip in which Pittsburgh took last season in team pressure rate when opposing offenses were faced with 3rd & 6+ yard situations.
Steelers Team Pressure Rate on 3rd Down, 6+ Yards & Rank
2021: 39.0% (25th)
2020: 51.3% (4th)
2019: 51.3% (2nd)
2018: 44.4% (15th)
2017: 53.0% (5th)
This is not to say Pittsburgh struggled in getting to the passer on third down in 2021. They managed to still sack the QB 23 times which ranked tied for fifth in the league last season. When it was third and longer however, Pittsburgh tallied 13 of those sacks, tied for 12th most. Considering the Steelers had the third most pass-rushing opportunities at this down and distance, it leaves one to wonder how they will look to improve.
Tyree Johnson could potentially help in solving the third and long issues based upon his success in college. Perhaps the Steelers view his ceiling as being a situational pass rusher and was brought in as such. With not much depth at the position currently on the roster, Johnson may have also found the right situation.
Not to get too far ahead either in thinking Johnson is automatic for a roster spot. But, outside of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith last season, Steelers EDGE rushers combined for only five total pressures (Melvin Ingram 2, Taco Charlton 2, Derrek Tuszka 1) on 108 pass-rushing opportunities, with zero sacks on third down.
Johnson will get his opportunity soon enough to see if he can add to the defense. One that will look to improve upon getting to the QB on third down. Especially in obvious passing down situations of six or more yards.