To say the Pittsburgh Steelers have put a large investment into their pass rush is an understatement. Just within their linebacking corps, they have three 1st round draft picks. Along the defensive line they have a first round draft pick and a second round selection. Those players? Jarvis Jones, Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
Reading those names evokes a certain amount of emotion for most Steelers fans. Whether it is happiness over the now Pro Bowl ILB Timmons, or frustration over third year OLB Jarvis Jones. Regardless of personal feelings, the Steelers are searching for someone to pressure the opposing quarterback who is under the age of 36. Yes, sorry James Harrison, you don't qualify for this job opening.
The fact Harrison is most likely the team's best pass rusher speaks volumes about him as a player, his second-to-none work ethic and his ability to understand a scheme to perfection. However, it also speaks volumes about the rest of the defenders who's jobs are to pressure the opposing quarterback from time to time.
It is early, and two preseason games are hardly a crutch to rest such an opinion on, but at some point fans everywhere are wondering who will fill Harrison's shoes when he retires, again. Harrison can't play until he is 50, although I wouldn't put it past him, and when he does call it quits who will be the next player in line? Jarvis? Dupree? Arthur Moats? No one seemingly jumps off the page as the heir apparent.
This isn't to suggest the person who could possibly take such a title as "the next great Steelers pass rusher" isn't on the current roster. Jarvis Jones has hardly played since a dicey rookie season. Bud Dupree is going through some growing pains adjusting to the NFL, and anyone who put high expectations on him as a rookie is kidding themselves. Cameron Heyward had a team-high 7.5 sacks in 2014 and Tuitt has shown the ability to get to the quarterback and will have more opportunities in his sophomore season.
When it comes to pressuring the passer, fans don't care where it comes from, as long as the pressure is delivered in a timely fashion. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler has talked about allowing his front-three in the 3-4 scheme to apply more pressure on passing downs, and has continued the trend of his predecessor, Dick Lebeau, in dropping his OLBs into coverage in specific situations. The extremely athletic duo at ILB of Timmons and Shazier could be the best duo the team has seen since James Farrior and Larry Foote occupied those positions respectively.
Either way you slice it, the team needs someone other than James Harrison to take the reins of this team's pass rush and start making plays for the defense. Starting the search for such defensive pressure could start this Sunday around 1:00 p.m. against the Green Bay Packers. Let's just hope this search provides some quality results.