Does side matter for the Steelers?

Matt Sullivan

Three Steelers' outside linebackers rank highly in a pass rushing efficiency stat. Wanna take a guess from which side they're rushing to generate those numbers?

Does side matter?

(nod to SteelCityRoller for a great line)

For the sake of conversation before The Standard is The Standard hits recording time, let's go over this whole "who should rush from the left defensive side and who should rush from the right?" thing.

Pro Football Focus has a formula they use to measure what it calls Pass Rushing Productivity. It's simple: (Sacks+0.75xHits+0.75xHurries). That number is the player's PRP.

Currently, among 3-4 OLBs, Steelers LOLB LaMarr Woodley is third in the NFL at 14.3. The site has credited him with five sacks, six hits and 21 hurries, for a sum of 32 (Total Pressure).

Most notably, Woodley has achieved these numbers rushing 100 percent from the defensive left side, but has rushed only 65.2 percent (176 pass rushes) of the passing plays against which he was on the field. That is 24th of 26 3-4 OLBs who have been in on 50 percent of his team's snaps.

Loosely based, and what we already know, Woodley rushes against the offense's right side, and rushes approximately two times in every three dropbacks by the opposing quarterback. That is a very low rate in comparison to his peers.

Jason Worilds, the Steelers on-again, off-again starter and back-up, has replaced Woodley recently and has had some outstanding performances. Worilds has rushed 231 times total this season (more than a full game's worth of passing snaps). He's played extensively both from the right and the left - and has rushed on 76.5 percent of the passing snaps he's played. His PRP is 10.1, which is 12th of 26.

Worilds has more pass rushes, but fewer than Woodley on the left side. Woodley has a higher PRP, but rushes less frequently.

To make this even more crazy, rookie Jarvis Jones has only rushed from the left 11 times this year, but has a PRP of 20.5 - by far and away the highest in the NFL among players taking 50 percent or more of their teams' snaps. Jones (1), Woodley (3) and Worilds (11) all rank in the top 11 defensive left side pass rushers in the NFL on a per-snap basis. Woodley doesn't rush from the right, and Jones and Worilds both drop in productivity by quite a bit from the right.

Perhaps the solution here is to just stack them all outside shoulder of the right tackle, and just let them race to the quarterback. That, along with Jones' small sample, is tongue-in-cheek, but generally speaking, it shows the Steelers outside linebackers get pressure off the offensive right edge, nearly regardless of who's in there.

Maybe rushing three off the right tackle isn't a good strategy. Another one could be to find a player who's effective rushing from the offensive left side.

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