Steelers Among The Best In Preventing Unblocked Pressure

The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line did not get off to a good start last season. They struggled in both run blocking and pass protection, resulting in poor yards per carry totals for the backs and far too many sacks for Ben Roethlisberger. Losing All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey eight snaps into the season didn’t help matters any.

One of the main issues that the line was struggling with early in the season was in their pre-snap reads and diagnosing where the rush was going to come from, which would result in uncontested pressure or only token resistance.

This is something that the line slowly picked up on as the season progressed, as should be no surprise, given the great amount of change it underwent. Kelvin Beachum replaced Mike Adams at left tackle, Fernando Velasco had to settle down at center, and David DeCastro was still highly inexperienced.

Even Ramon Foster had more experience at right guard than at left guard. It took time for everything to come together. And that includes a shifting in offensive philosophy to include more no huddle action and quicker releases.

A byproduct of this season-long transformation is the fact that the Steelers offensive line became much better in their pre-snap reads and in preventing unblocked pressure. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, they became one of the best in the league.

According to their data, the Steelers gave up the third-fewest total unblocked pressures in the league at 36 in total. Only the Denver Broncos at 30 and the San Diego Chargers at 32 gave up less.

While they were only average to slightly above average in allowing those pressures to be converted into sacks (giving up five sacks), their total knockdown percentage—the frequency with which unblocked pressure resulted in the quarterback on the ground—was fourth-best league-wide at 30.6 percent.

This no doubt has a lot to do with the quarterback that just so happens to be under center in Pittsburgh, as Roethlisberger is perhaps the most difficult to bring down. He fights through and avoids more sure sacks than just about any other quarterback in the league, even if his unwillingness to give up on a play results in other, unnecessary sacks and knockdowns.

Speaking of Roethlisberger, he was among the best quarterbacks in the league when dealing with unblocked pressure, ranking third in quarterback rating behind only Colin Kaepernick and Philip Rivers.

In 36 dropbacks under unblocked pressure, Roethlisberger was sacked six times. He attempted 30 passes, completing 17 for 162 yards and two touchdowns, equaling a quarterback rating of 94.

This certainly bodes well if the offense is able to pick up where they left off last season. While the offense got off to a slow start, it really started to click after getting through some growing pains. The key to early success this season will certainly be getting the new and young receivers acclimated.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Paddy

    Not what I saw, and they were awful in run blocking.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I would bet that the majority of those sacks came in the first 4-5 games. The majority of the bad Ben plays also came in those games when he was forcing stuff, giving up INT’s, or trying to extend plays instead of throwing it away, resulting in fumbles.

    After that, with Ben getting rid of it quickly or throwing it away, they probably played smarter. The line understood their assignments and the fact that they only need to get a piece of the blitzer to give Ben 2.5 seconds to get it off quickly.

    So you see where I’m going with this? I contend that the huge difference was Ben, not the O line.

  • Rodney Lambert

    Very, very misleading article…..When Mike Adams is “blocking” Jared Allen or any other DL that doesn’t go down as unblocked but is might as well be…lol…The entire OL has had difficulties…Here’s a shout out to Munch to pull all the pieces of our OL together into a good unit this year! Go Steelers

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    It started to click when #7 started calling plays. No knock on Haley because it’s his offense. Plays are called on what you see not what you think you’ll see. Lets keep that going and the O will be fine.

  • ApexSteel

    A lot of people just aren’t understanding that the o-line came on great late last year. In the first 8 games, they gave up 31 sacks. Last 8 games they gave up 11. The running game also improved and as a result we were 6-2 in those last 8.

  • PA2AK

    Yup the stink of 0 for September has lingered in most minds. They improved and for many reasons are poised for much more improvement. Won’t see all pros across the line, but far from what we have all been painfully accustomed to seeing for the last several years.

  • Jason

    I’m pretty sure there was an article posted a while back about our defense being one of the worst at creating unblocked pressure. Not really relevant just a thought.

  • hp b

    Having those two power backs running the ball sure won’t hurt.