Since the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dick LeBeau parted ways, defensive coordinator Keith Butler has been saying the same thing since Day 1. This would be how he doesn’t like to rely on the blitz to get pressure on the quarterback. He would rather be able to do so by just sending four players, leaving seven back in coverage in the back end.
What fans have found out throughout Butler’s tenure are this talk is more often just lip service.
The Steelers are a team who loves to blitz, and does it with a high level of frequency. In fact, thanks to NFL Matchup on ESPN’s Twitter page, the Steelers blitz the quarterback on 30.1% of drop backs.
Check the rankings for yourself:
These defenses like to BRING THE HEAT!— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) October 18, 2018
Also: Get ready to see some blitzing tonight in the #DENvsAZ game...#BeRedSeeRed #Browns #RavensFlock #TitanUp #Jets #HereWeGo #BroncosCountry #Colts #ChiefsKingdom #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/Kkc11OYOcV
That is a lot of blitzing for a man who claims he doesn’t like to blitz.
To be fair, sometimes you have to blitz out of necessity. For instance, there are times when the Steelers simply can’t get pressure with just their front four, so you have to send extra pass rushers to try and get to the quarterback.
On top of this simple fact, the Steelers have some good blitzers on their defense. Vince Williams is a tremendous blitzer as an inside linebacker, and Mike Hilton might be the best blitzing cornerback in the entire league. The blitzes have worked too. Heading into Week 7, the Steelers are second in the league with 22 sacks, trailing only the Baltimore Ravens with 26 thanks to their 11 sack day vs. the Titans in Week 6, and have received contributions from a handful of defenders.
Here are the Steelers’ sack totals heading into the bye week, by player:
T.J. Watt — 6
Bud Dupree — 3
Javon Hargrave — 3
Jon Bostic — 2.5
Cameron Heyward — 2.5
Vince Williams — 1
Stephon Tuitt — 1
L.J. Fort — 1
Anthony Chickillo — 1
Daniel McCullers — 1
Will the Steelers continue to blitz heavily? If it is working, absolutely. But the hope is Butler dials up his blitzes with more creativity, and intelligence. Sending safeties in this defense is not the smartest decision, and has left the secondary vulnerable on more than one occasion.
Regardless, I doubt the blitz is going anywhere anytime soon in the Pittsburgh defensive repertoire.