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Steelers Film Room: Previewing the St. Louis Rams

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Week 3 is nearly upon us, and it's time to take a look at the defensive front of the St. Louis Rams in this week's Film Room preview.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we previewed how the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, made the majority of his plays in the 49ers' Week-1 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. This week, we take a closer look at the most talked about aspect of the St. Louis Rams, their defensive front. In doing so, we'll highlight their pass rush, their run stopping capabilities and where they might make a mistake or two.

All of the film used will be from the Rams' Week 2 loss to the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

First Play:

Going through this game and the Rams' victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1, it was easy to find pass-rush plays, but the trick was picking which one to highlight. The Rams blitz corners and linebackers on occasion, but the majority of their eight sacks this season come strictly from their front-four defensive linemen rushing the quarterback on their own.

Here their front-four go up against five offensive linemen and two of them beat Washington's protectors. All of their starters on the defensive line are explosive, but it's also their ability to make plays while being engaged that make them extremely difficult to stop.

Here you see Aaron Donald explode past his man, but he gets engaged, even sandwiched, by two offensive linemen. In this case, he utilized a very quick spin-move to break to the inside and earn a clear path to Kirk Cousins. This is something that you'll see from both him and Michael Brockers on the interior, while Robert Quinn and Chris Long, who is highlighted here, are prominent pass rushers in today's NFL.

Second Play:

Highlighting their explosiveness, Brockers shoots right through A-gap beating Washington's center and taking out a run play before it even starts. Not only is he quick off of the ball, but he's able to break down in the backfield and make the solid tackle on Matt Jones before the play even sets up. If Brockers doesn't get there, Jones may have a lot of space to Brockers' side to make a big gain.

Brockers and Donald will be looking to shift between which player gets a shot at A-gap throughout the game against the Steelers, and both are proficient in creating problems in that space. Cody Wallace will have a tall task being the person responsible for preventing the Rams from disrupting the offensive schemes which the Steelers run.

Third Play:

Here we highlight Aaron Donald again, and his explosion off of the ball is part of the focus here, but it's also part of the mistakes that the Rams make on occasion.

When you're on the defensive interior and you see the offensive lineman in front of you pulling, your job is typically to follow your man and stay tight on his back because he will lead you to where the play is going and give you a shot at the ball-carrier. Here, Donald does the first part in beating the person assigned to pick him up, but he seems to target Cousins instead of following the guard, which would have given him a better pursuit angle on Matt Jones.

Without Donald to make the play in the backfield, Washington's offense executes the rest of its blocking scheme to perfection, with even their center downfield making blocks to send Jones for a touchdown.

The Steelers love to use pulling guards and tight ends to set up their favorite run plays. It will be up to the backside tackles or the center, whether it be Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum or Cody Wallace, to keep Donald and Brockers from stopping these plays before they start.

Wrap-up:

The Rams' defense has earned its reputation as a tough unit, but they're also vulnerable, as we saw last week. This season, they have the eighth highest points allowed in the NFL. While it should be acknowledged that some of those points have come from turnovers and special teams plays, and also that it's still only Week 2, it does indicate that a potent offense should be able to capitalize on some big plays.

The Steelers are coming off of a 43-point performance and they have the third-highest total of points scored in the NFL. This was compiled without three of their best players in Maurkice Pouncey, Martavis Bryant and Le'Veon Bell. Bell returns this week from his suspension to see the field for the first time during the regular season since being injured against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 of last season. In Bell's previous six games, he gained more than 100 all-purpose yards five times, more than 200 all-purpose yards three times, and scored eight touchdowns.

Hopefully, Cody Wallace won't be a liability in a Steelers' offensive line that has been impressive so far in the 2015 NFL season. If they can manage to limit the playmaking ability of the Rams' front-seven and, specifically, their front- four, Le'Veon Bell might continue on the warpath that he was on late in the 2014 season.