As a 35 year old man, I grew up in the transition years for the Pittsburgh Steelers. You know, those years after Terry Bradshaw before the team drafted Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. While those teams saw some serious success, minus a Super Bowl win, what I remember most was the defense.
You know, the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense.
Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Levon Kirkland and so many more made up the group which made the moniker a household term during the mid-90s. I loved those defenses, even though they were often exposed in their secondary. Visions of Bill Cowher talking to Greg Lloyd saying, “Just rush!” run through my mind like the VHS tape I had growing up.
Fast forward to 2018, and it seems as if the Pittsburgh Steelers have rejuvenated the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense with their high sack totals and how much they blitz. The Steelers sport the most sacks in the league, as a team, with 41, and a main reason why they are so high on the list is likely due to the percentage of the time they blitz.
Take a look at the data in the image below, courtesy of ESPN’s NFL Matchup Twitter feed:
In 2017, the Steelers set a new franchise record for sacks in a season with 56, and they are currently on pace to finish just under that mark. But the difference between last year’s team and the current team is how frequently the team is sending extra pass rushers.
Blitzing is often considered a risk-reward proposition. Send extra pass rushers and leave your secondary vulnerable. Well, so far this year the Steelers have seen their secondary give up more yardage through the air than any other team, but one. Pittsburgh’s second in yards allowed passing per game (320.7) and is second only to the Buccaneers who gives up 344 yards per game.
So, yes the Steelers are blitzing almost more than anyone else, and they are getting home at an impressive clip, but at what expense? Some prefer to blitz the quarterback, in hopes of getting home and creating turnovers, while others think protecting the secondary is more important. Either way, it looks like the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense is back, for good and bad.