Steelers Film Room: Putting Pressure On Rookies

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By Alex Kozora

Throughout the rest of the offseason, we’ll examine specific plays from the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 season. We won’t be focusing so much on individual play, though that inevitably comes with any breakdown, but instead, we will focus on concepts used in the pro game to show not just what happened, but why it happened.

This will be an X’s and O’s series focusing on both sides of the ball. The good and bad of the Steelers of last season.

To kick things off, a look at Dick LeBeau’s pressure package to welcome a rookie lineman into the league.

Offensive Personnel: Ace

Defense: Nickel

Coverage: Cover 1 Robber

Result: Pressure, incompletion, punt

It’s Week One of the 2013 season. Just the 10th career snap for rookie offensive lineman Chance Warmack. His first 3rd and long, 14 to be exact.

The first time in months that LeBeau was able to reach into his bag of tricks.

From the end zone view, let’s take a look pre-snap.

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The linebackers have crept up pre-snap. Larry Foote is over the “B” gap between the center and left guard. Lawrence Timmons is showing blitz. Jarvis Jones is shifted from ROLB to over the weakside “A” gap, off the line by roughly two yards. A new wrinkle, both for Jones and the rookie right guard Warmack.

Immediately off the snap, Foote slants hard into the playside “A”, grabbing the attention of the center and left guard. Meanwhile, Cameron Heyward shoots the backside “A”. Jarvis Jones begins to loop over the pair, eventually rushing into the left guard, who alertly peels off Foote when the pressure comes.

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But the focus here is on Warmack. Because Timmons’ body language showed blitz (close to the line, leaning forward) the rookie guard hesitates and respects that possibility off the ball. The presumed theory being that even if all six defenders come, the Titans have six to pick it up. The center can squeeze on Jones, the left guard on Heyward, etc.

That could be the case if the rush was vanilla, with each defender charging the gap in front of them. Not the case in the NFL.

Timmons drops into coverage off the snap, reading the tight end and looking to eliminate any possible hot route against pressure.

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Warmack’s hesitation doesn’t allow him to move laterally to the inside in order to wall off Heyward. Because Foote crashed into the center, there’s no one to get square to the defensive end. Foote’s goal was to never get pressure. It was, in a sense, to act as a nose tackle. Be a distraction. Methodically absorb bodies to free up other defenders. Just at the comparatively svelte 239 pounds, but the result is the same.

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Warmack is too late to recover and Heyward shoots through, getting pressure on quarterback Jake Locker. His throw is ultimately behind his intended target and the Titans are forced to punt.

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It’s not a play that will show up in a box score. Not even a hurry will show up in a traditional one. And the pressure caused by Heyward wasn’t his doing as much as it was LeBeau’s.

Rush just five, dropping six into coverage, and still get immediate pressure? That’s the ultimate goal, the reason why offensive coordinators hate seeing LeBeau on the opposing sideline as the know their protection schemes are going to be tested. One misstep by a lineman and the whole thing falls apart.

For a rookie like Warmack, it was his first taste into what the NFL is all about. Welcome to the league, rook.

Senior in college, blogging from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Yuriy

    Lots of updates today and as always you guys are awesome in doing what you do! Great breakdown of the play.

  • shawn

    to me … that just looks like bad mechanics & a bad pass by Locker … he doesnt follow through with his right leg … the lane and WR were open for the taking … but great breakdown of Lebeau’s D …

  • John C

    Yeah….a better pass from Locker and he gets 10 YAC or with a missed tackle we just gave up another big play!

  • John C

    Great breakdown as always….love when you guys do this!!

  • Tony Richards

    Great job guys. I could watch this all day.

  • Alex Kozora

    Partially, yes. But the pressure doesn’t give Locker a clean pocket to follow through with. Can’t get his front foot pointed to where he wants the ball to go because of the pressure from Heyward.

  • http://www.facebook.com/STEELMANIAC STEEL MANIAC

    Was that ball intercepted? :-)

  • kev4heels

    alex – i head on the terrible podcast that you were only 21. what specific books/articles/websites have you used to acquire such a wealth of fundamental insight? it’s impressive bud. thanks so much for your articles.

  • RMSteeler

    Great breakdown and easily understood, Alex! I’m going to enjoy this series as much as I looked forward to your pre-draft player breakdowns. I hope Dave can still afford you after your rookie contract. You are better than most network analysts!

  • Alex Kozora

    The books I talked about in the podcast are excellent starts. Any topic you want to learn about can be quickly found if you search it. Pretty much how I learned. Look up coaching clinic notes and stuff like that. Big help.

  • Madi

    He explains the result of the play a couple of times.

  • shawn

    i really dont see it that way … he had plenty of room … just a bad pass from a bad QB … Heyward wasn’t anywhere near his face … any decent HS QB that knows how to stay in the pocket could have completed that pass !

  • Madi

    I’m with you. Any decent high school QB would do better against a Steelers blitz than Jake Locker.

  • roy beckford

    To add on to what Alex Said this blitz is just another form of the MLB cross fire blitz we like to run what makes this so confusing for pass protection and the qb is the fact that there is only one person with there hand in the dirty. With that being said everyone else who is standing up is able rusher or dropping back. Follow me for a sec, the idea behind blitzing is to force the qb to get rid of the ball before he wants to. When running zone a qb is taught to throw into space between the zones so he will have to hold the ball for a bit longer until he figures out the type of zone coverage. Once he does that he has to throw a good timely pass. knowing all these principles our zone blitzing scheme incorporated into the 1-5-5 formation is devastating for a offense especially the qb. As a qb, when facing a 1-5-5 it’s really hard to identify who is blitzing and what coverage is being ran behind it. I notice in the comments guys was saying the blitz didn’t work, but it did it confused the qb and forced him into throwing to a late read

  • http://www.facebook.com/STEELMANIAC STEEL MANIAC

    I know. lol