Every year there are areas of the Pittsburgh Steelers which are dissected and picked on by those who watch the team closely every week. In the past the team’s secondary has caught the ire of the fan base, but the outside linebackers/pass rush has been on list for some time now.
Even after the team set a new franchise mark of 56 sacks last season, some cited poor teams, the Cleveland Browns, and sub-par quarterbacks as a reason for the inflated statistic.
Well, no one is saying the Steelers’ defense is perfect, Keith Butler’s unit is far from perfect, but among the issues the team has, pressuring the quarterback should not be considered among them.
Through three games, the Steelers are tied for 2nd in the NFL with 11 sacks on opposing quarterbacks, but even if they aren’t getting sacks, they are pressuring opposing passers.
Check out this statistic via ESPN’s NFL Matchup Twitter account:
This shows the Steelers’ defense isn’t just getting to the quarterback and bringing them down, but they are applying pressure 40 percent of the time the quarterback drops back to throw.
However, this statistic can be slightly misleading. Think back to the team’s Monday night win over Tampa Bay. You can likely recall several times when the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass rush hit Ryan Fitzpatrick, only to have him release the ball almost simultaneously and complete the pass.
It goes down as a pressure, but was still a completed pass, and sometimes a big play.
Nonetheless, it might just be the game plan going against some red-hot quarterbacks the last two weeks, or a philosophy by Keith Butler. Pressure the quarterback, by an means necessary, and sometimes those means leave the secondary exposed.
This sparks the debate of whether maximum pressure should be used, or if you should try and just get pressure with the defensive front and hope the coverage holds up? In Week 3 it seemed the defense was hell bent on getting to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and hitting him early and often. However, in Week 2 Patrick Mahomes had a lot of time to make plays in the backfield, and the Steelers tried about everything.
What will the team’s approach be against Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night? If I were a betting man I would think the game plan would resemble more of Week 3, than any other week of this NFL regular season thus far.