In this edition of Steelers Film Room, we take a look at some positive plays made by the Pittsburgh Steelers' front seven against the New England Patriots on Thursday night. The Steelers' front seven (linebackers in particular) did a nice job of bottling up the Patriots' rushing attack, holding Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden to a combined 70 yards on 20 carries.
Jarvis Jones said he added 15 lbs. of muscle in the offseason, and it certainly showed on this play.
Facing a first and ten from the 50-yard line, the Patriots' offense lines up in a one back, three-wide receiver set with tight end Rob Gronkowski on the right side of the line.
Brady sees strong safety Will Allen creep down into the box on the strong side of the formation and audibles to a stretch run to the left. Jones explodes into left tackle Nate Solder at the snap, knocking the 6-foot 8-inch, 325-pound behemoth backward.
After using his strength and leverage to create separation from Solder, Jones tackles the running back for no gain.
This is the type of play Jones made a living on at the University of Georgia, and something Steelers' fans have been waiting to see from the former first-round pick.
Following a first-down run by wide receiver Julian Edelman, the Patriots line up in a heavy package on first and ten from their own 32-yard line. The Steelers counter with an eight-man front and bring Will Allen into the box.
Allen and Bud Dupree are not set at the snap, but the Patriots run left in the direction of James Harrison and Ryan Shazier. Shazier diagnoses the play before the ball is snapped, and is able to knife between the guard and the tackle to bring the running back down for a three-yard loss.
Shazier uses his speed and football IQ to diagnose the play and get into the backfield before the pulling center is able to fill the hole.
Here, the Patriots' offense lines up in a balanced two-tight end set on first and ten from its own 24-yard line. The Steelers counter with a base 3-4 front. At the snap, Jones uses a quick first step to gain inside leverage on the tight end and meets the pulling right guard in the backfield. The running back is forced to bounce the play outside where Shazier is waiting.
The Steelers' front office has drafted a linebacker in the first round for three consecutive years, and Steelers' fans are finally starting to see a return on that investment.
The play of Jones and Shazier against the run on Thursday night was encouraging. Even rookie first-rounder Bud Dupree got in on the action, notching his first career sack. The young linebackers must continue to improve over the course of the 2015 season, and help compensate for a weak secondary.
Notice how we are seeing the development of Steelers' first round draft picks, Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier and their improvement at their positions? We could be seeing the coming of the new anchors to a solid Steelers defense in the near future.
The front seven will face a tougher test against running back Carlos Hyde and an extremely physical San Francisco 49ers' offensive line in Week 2. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers' young defense can match their tenacity.