What has been one of the biggest changes with the Pittsburgh Steelers defense under Keith Butler?
No, it isn’t the amount of 3-4 base defense they run, but primarily how they like to get pressure on the quarterback. Rather than having the bookend outside linebackers be the primary source of pressure, the team now relies on surprise blitzes from the edge, hello Mike Hilton, and a great pass rush from the interior defensive linemen.
However, to get this interior pass rush, you have to have some pass rusher who can apply said pressure on the opposing quarterback. Luckily for the Steelers they have one of the NFL’s best duos in the league in Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
Just take a look at this statistic, courtesy of Pro Football Focus (PFF), below:
Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt combined for 102 pressures last season, 3rd most of any interior defender duo in the NFL.— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) July 4, 2018
The only other pairs with more both included Aaron Donald (who had 91 by himself). #SteelerSpotlight
So, what have we learned from this?
First, Aaron Donald is a freak of nature.
Second, Tuitt and Heyward together are pretty special too.
The Steelers need both Heyward and Tuitt to be at, or close to, full strength this season for the defense to really take flight. It was 2016 when Heyward was lost midway through the season with a torn pectoral muscle, and last year Tuitt suffered a torn biceps tendon on the first defensive play from scrimmage in Week 1.
Whatever nickname they call themselves, they certainly are a dynamic duo for the black-and-gold. While the Steelers’ outside linebackers have had their struggles since James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley were the ones doing damage, the defensive line has shown a level not seen in a long time in Pittsburgh.
Can this dynamic duo get even better in 2018? If healthy, they absolutely can — and the Steelers need them to do so.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for training camp on July 25th.