The Pittsburgh Steelers needed stout defensive play across the board to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals. They shut out the Bengals' offense for three quarters and forced four turnovers over the course of the game. Part of the big-time performance was great plays being made by Pittsburgh's linebackers.
While Ryan Shazier stole the show with many tackles, passes defensed, and two forced fumbles that turned the tide of the game, the outside linebackers played a huge part as well. The Steelers were able to shut down Cincinnati's ground game, and part of that was due to the improved play from the team's outside linebackers in this system.
Bud Dupree has had one heck of a rookie season at outside linebacker for Pittsburgh. It has not been all full of huge plays and sellar performances, but he has shown his potential at multiple points. This play was another example of what Dupree can bring to the table, Jeremy Hill is running a stretch play to the opposite side of the defense which leaves Dupree free to chase him down. Hill tried to cut back to the middle of the line but Dupree had already read the play and cut down any space for Hill to escape. Plays like this are what the Steelers were not getting from the likes of Jason Worilds last year.
On this play Dupree does more than shoot down the line and attack, he completely sheds a blocker and fights past two pulling linemen to end this play in the backfield. Notice how Dupree stays low and gets his hands inside Tyler Eiffert to prevent him from creating a seal. Dupree's biggest knock on him coming into this season was his lack of technique, as the biggest value of him as a prospect in the draft was his athleticism mixed with his size. On this play he shows solid fundamentals and finishes the play. Seeing stuff like this should make Steelers fans and Pittsburgh outside linebacker coach, Joey Porter, extra excited for Dupree's future.
Remember how last week we talked about how the All-Pro, Pro Bowl tackle, Andrew Whitworth, had spent quite some time this season getting his butt kicked when playing the Steelers? Well it happened again when they faced each other in the playoffs. This time it was not from Steelers' legend, James Harrison, but the young Jarvis Jones. Jones has been a bit of a disappointment to many as a mid-first-round pick, but he came up huge for his team on this play. He fights through Whitworth's hold while keeping his feet moving to make the sack and force a fumble for Cam Thomas to recover.
If Pittsburgh can consistently count on its young outside linebackers to be playmakers on the defensive front, the Steelers may have the making for being a top ranked defense again. Pressure from outside linebackers through a consistent pass rush is imperative to limiting the big play chances for opponents and turning third downs into punts. If Jones, Dupree, Harrison and Arthur Moats have a big week against Denver, it may be another nightmare for Peyton Manning similar to when he last saw Pittsburgh in the playoffs.