By Matthew Marczi
It is certainly no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers this season have been terrible at generating pressure on the quarterback, and especially so when they do not blitz. This has been the theme for the past few years now.
Part of the reason this might be is that, despite all of the creativity that Dick LeBeau puts into his pressure packages, the Steelers have been the worst in the entire league in getting to the quarterback unblocked.
According to Pro Football Focus, Pittsburgh ranks 32nd in the league in terms of getting unblocked pressure on the quarterback. In fact, they are one of only two teams in the league without at least one sack coming from an unblocked player, and they have only 11 pressures in total, including three hits.
Even more telling, when the Steelers are able to scheme through a free rusher, it only generates a quarterback knockdown on 27.3 percent of occasions, which ranks second-worst in the league, behind only the St. Louis Rams.
Not only are the Steelers struggling to give their pass rushers clean looks at the quarterback, they are also struggling to actually get to the quarterback when they do get clean looks, so it is no wonder the team has been fighting such an uphill battle in terms of attempting to generate pressure.
There is a flipside to this, however, on the offensive side of the ball.
Despite what it may seem intuitively, given some of the struggles that the offensive line had had this season picking up stunts, Pro Football Focus ranks the Steelers’ offense just 25th in terms of giving up the most unblocked pressure.
In total, the Steelers have given up four sacks, three hits, and 12 hurries on offense to free rushers. The Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers give up the least unblocked pressure, with nine and 12 total pressures, respectively.
The Steelers also rank 22nd in terms of allowing that unblocked pressure to turn into a knockdown, at 36.8 percent. On the other hand, they are slightly below average in terms of allowing that pressure to result in a sack.
One would think that Ben Roetlisberger’s play has a great deal to do with both of those statistics. A good deal of the sacks that he takes can be avoided, even some of the sacks that come from unblocked rushers.
However, he also stays upright often when other quarterbacks would go to the ground. Take the touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders as an example. Given some of the mental miscues that the line has faced this year, however, I am just surprised that the total number of unblocked pressures allowed is not higher.