Steelers Defensive Ends To Rush The Edge More In 2013

Since Dick LeBeau returned in 2004 to be the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator, the effectiveness of the defensive ends in his 3-4 defense have never measured by sacks. Instead, their ability to push the pocket was what mattered most as it clogged up the middle and forced quarterbacks trying to evacuate the pocket into the waiting arms of a penetrating outside linebacker. Now, according to Brett Keisel, LeBeau will allow his defensive ends to rush the quarterback to the outside more in 2013 in an effort to raise the sack and turnover totals that have been well below what is expected from a Steelers defense the last two seasons.

“There\’s been an emphasis more on [ends] getting on the edge rather than just pushing the pocket, getting on the edge and trying to make something happen,” Keisel told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In 2012, the Steelers outside linebackers registered only 15 of the teams 37 sacks. In 2011, they registered 21 of the 35 total sacks, so you can see the arrow is certainly pointing in the wrong direction. Sure, injuries played a role in the big decline last year, but LeBeau obviously feels that there was a bit more to it than just that.

While it is yet to be seen just how much the Steelers defensive ends will be allowed to attack the edge in 2013, if disguised correctly, it could provide more space in the gaps for an outside linebacker to penetrate inside via a looping stunt or an inside linebacker to blitz up the middle. The only downside to this, however, is that the wider spacing could provide easier escape routes for quarterbacks to escape through in addition to them having a more unobstructed view of the middle part of the field.

The Houston Texans defense does something similar to what the Steelers appear to be set to do more of in 2013 with the main difference of course being they have J.J. Watt. Not only can Watt rush the edge effectively, but he can also can get more than his share of sacks and pressures by merely rushing head-up out of either a three of five technique traditional bull rush. The Steelers don\’t have a player of his caliber on defense, but of course neither do the other 30 teams in the league.

Regardless of how the Steelers intend to rush the quarterback in 2013; the result is all that matters, as it must result in either quarterbacks getting sacked or them forcing a ball where it probably shouldn\’t go because of relentless pressure.

Another season similar to the previous two won\’t be enough. The Steelers defense might have been ranked No. 1 overall statistically the last two years, but they failed to set the offense up with good field position because of the lack of turnovers. In short, the defense could have been much, much better and this new wrinkle is a testament to LeBeau knowing those rankings are just that, rankings.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Finally, Lebeau smelt the bacon being cooked in morning!


    Whatever scheme Lebeau has in mind should fit the players…I like this if the DE can get the T to think about outside leverage…McClendon’s quickness will surprise some Cs…LBs shooting up inside could create more pressure.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    It seems unwise to me that Keisel has revealed the team’s new strategy for DEs. Now they have lost the element of surprise that could have helped them rack up more sacks in the early part of the schedule before teams figure out that something has changed.

  • dgh57

    Perfect! Now we only need to trade for JJ Watt to execute this plan! NOT

    Maybe this new plan will fit our present DEs skill set better. It’s worth trying out to see if it works and I’m thinking we might be experimenting with it this preseason. If we can create pressure from more angles it will give QBs something else to worry about because they’re already going to get it from up the middle from a unexpecting place in McLendon.

  • Andrew

    To be fair to other teams, it probably wouldn’t take them long to realize/adjust to the subtle change. I wouldn’t expect Ziggy to line up in a wide-9 stance every snap.

  • RMSteeler

    Better get there fast or the secondary healthy. Hopefully both. Lebeau has definitely taken his foot of the pressure gas pedal the last couple of years although part of it is scheming by competitors to spread the field with multiple receivers/tight ends. I believe there could have been a lack of confidence in the secondary due to injuries, also.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Couldn’t disagree more that the D could have been “much, much better.” In this pass happy, protect the QB and receiver NFL you are gonna have some so-so defensive days and give up some points. Offense scored 10 and turned the ball over three times in 10-13 losses to Balt and Cincy, and scored 14 with 8 flippin turnoves while the D held Cleveland to 20 and kept team in the game. An adequate to poor offense wins all three of those games and Steelers go 11-5. BB had better get his head out of his a$$ and listen to his OC. Ben’s a big, dumb, physically talented QB, his best assets are not above the shoulder pads.

  • charles

    You got courage.
    What LeBeau may be thinking is a tweek here or there can result in a few more hurries or sacks, which can result in a few more turnovers which turns 2 Ls into 2 Ws which gives us the possibility to have a three game winning streak to end the season.
    But, our D must get much much better in both sacks and TOs.
    The rest of the post I whole heartedly agree with. I am still waiting for Ben to attack the D instead of him waiting for someone to break long…That is the mark of a veteran, elite NFL qb.

  • Ahmad

    I’m not worried about Qbs escaping. I’m worried about the run D taking a blow with the ends more focused non getting to the QB. I guess we will see what happens and I trust LeBeau to be able to get things right.