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Can Myles Jack bring an improvement to the Steelers linebackers for 2022?

With the Steelers struggling at inside linebacker last season, will Jack be a solution to the issue?

Detroit Lions v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made a number of additions so far for the 2022 season. After bringing in some players to help fill voids of players lost, Myles Jack was a player who was added and a subsequent player at the position was released. So what does Jack bring to the Steelers they were missing previously? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

While I can easily spout off a bunch of statistics about new Steelers linebacker Myles Jack, exactly how they will translate to the field will be the most interesting question. With the addition of Jack and the release of Joe Schobert, the biggest thing the Steelers gain for 2022 is the salary cap space. Joe Schobert was set to count almost $10 million against the salary cap and Myles Jack is coming in with a $4.75 million salary cap hit for this year.

When it comes to the numbers, it’s not that Myles Jack jumps off the page with what he did in 2021. Credited with 108 tackles, it was the first time in Jack’s career since his rookie season in 2016 where he did not have a takeaway (interception or fumble recovery). It was also the first season in Jack’s career where he did not register at least 0.5 sacks or a pass defensed.

One area in which Myles Jack supposedly had his best year since 2018 (when Pro Football Reference began keeping advanced stats) is the department of missed tackles. According to PFR, Jack only had four missed tackles on the season which equated to a 3.6% missed tackle percentage. It should also be noted the source for advanced statistics is very important as Pro Football Focus had Myles Jack with 12 missed tackles in 2021.

While the numbers don’t seem to jump off the page, the other important thing Myles Jack brings to the Steelers as a linebacker is versatility and athleticism. Perhaps the film can show this a little better.

The Film Line:

Myles Jack isn’t viewed as the same player he was earlier in his career, some of that may be demoralization from playing on a terrible team, or just the lack of talent around him making it easier for teams to ignore him. It is noteworthy that his best seasons were when the defense was a top ten defense, and the drop off has been steady since they tore the defense apart, and the Jaguars weren’t exactly the best work environment in 2021.

So it is possible that the Steelers environment and surrounding talent will get much more out of Jack than the Jaguars did the last few years, but even if they don’t, they are getting a really good player.

2020 Jaguars vs. Colts

Myles Jack in the linebacker to the bottom of the screen.

Myles Jack is a fantastic athlete. He doesn’t have to run full speed to meet this route and he shows great short area burst as the ball is thrown. He squares his shoulder to the contact point, bursts into the receiver, and takes him down with good form. He’s fantastic at covering and pursuing these underneath routes and his low rate of missed tackles speaks to his effectiveness in preventing yards on these routes.

2020 Jaguars vs. Colts

Myles Jack is the linebacker to the bottom of the screen.

His athleticism, reaction speed, and burst also serve him well in other situations, allowing him to take advantage of miscues and be an opportunistic player. This is Jack’s only sack of the last two years. He wasn’t used as a pass rusher much, but with his athletic profile, he can get to the quarterback quickly when he has a clear lane.

2021 Jaguars at Bengals

Myles Jack (No. 44) is the linebacker to the left side of the screen.

Here the Bengals are running a screen, but the pressure from Jack slows the pass down and forces it farther outside. You can see how that throws off the angles for his blockers, leading to no gain on the play.

2021 Jaguars at Bengals

Myles Jack (No. 44) is the linebacker on the hash marks to the right side of the screen.

While Jack has the speed and a good nose for taking the right angles in pass rush, he doesn’t have pass rush moves, or the power to drive through blockers. On this play the Bengals stop Jack’s rush with a running back, and Jack is unable to impact the play at all.

We see similar results when facing offensive lineman in the run game.

2021 Jaguars at Bengals

Myles Jack (No. 44) is the linebacker in the middle of the screen.

Jack frequently shows willingness to physically throw himself into the run lanes to thwart run plays, but when the offensive line gets to him, he doesn’t show the power or block-shedding ability to deal with the block and still make plays.

Taking on blockers is not Myles Jack’s specialty, getting to the ball quickly and being a top-tier coverage linebacker is his game.

2021 Jaguars at Bengals

Myles Jack (No. 44) is the linebacker in the middle of the screen.

Jack’s quick drop into coverage takes away the underneath route Burrow looks for before taking off on this play. The extended play leads to an incomplete pass. You can also see how quickly Jack covers ground from his deep zone assignment once Burrow is running.

2021 Jaguars at Bengals

Myles Jack (No. 44) is the linebacker to the left side of the screen, on the mid-field logo.

That same speed allows Jack to stay with Tyler Boyd on this route, again denying Joe Burrow one of his passing options, resulting in another incomplete pass.

Myles Jack may not be the Vince-Williams-esque thumper and run stuffer that many Steeler fans wanted after last season, but he is a play maker on defense, if he can be kept clear of blockers.

The Point:

Pairing Devin Bush with Myles Jack gives the Steelers two high-end cover linebackers. That’s a serious asset in the pass-happy, matchup based NFL. But it leaves the Steelers dependent on the defensive line to keep their linebackers free to operate. While history tells us if Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu are all healthy and playing at the level we are accustomed to seeing from them, that they are more than capable of the task. With the Steelers doubling down on linebackers that will require their work to thrive, the Steelers may need to add more beef to the defensive line to make sure the linebackers stay clean if any of the three main linemen miss significant time.