Tomlin On How Pass Rush And Coverage Work Together

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin fielded some questions following the morning practice of the rookie minicamp yesterday, and naturally the questions covered a variety of topics, which can go in one ear and out the other.

From what Tomlin is looking for when evaluating during minicamp to whether or not it was intentional that Steelers second-round defensive end Stephon Tuitt was given jersey number 91, knowing that it once belonged to Aaron Smith, a wide variety of material was entertained in this first post-practice address.

There was one question in particular that I thought was interesting, however, because it touched on an intersection of many current concerns surrounding the team on the defensive side of the ball.

Tomlin was asked by a reporter if he could sum up his philosophy of creating pressure with his front seven and how it relates to the secondary. The Steelers have struggled to generate sacks for three straight seasons now, managing to record only 34 of them in 2013.

Since then, they’ve released LaMarr Woodley, who signed the largest contract by a defensive player in team history in large part because of his ability to generate pressure and bring the quarterback down.

Then we have the cornerback position, with Ike Taylor in presumably his last season and unquestionably in a steady decline. The Steelers opted to pass on the position through the first four rounds of the draft.

On the other hand, they did beef up their defensive pressure packages with Ryan Shazier, Tuitt, and the earlier free agent signing of Mike Mitchell. it’s surely no coincidence that the passing defense tends to be better when the team is generating more pressure.

“Rush and coverage works together”, Tomlin said, and “it has since the beginning of time, and will [continue to work together].

“You’ve got to apply pressure to the quarterback. It doesn’t matter how many people you do it with, you better use as many as required for consistent pressure to assure that the ball comes out in a timely manner”.

The Steelers haven’t been one of the more successful teams of late in creating pressure out of their base, though there were still only moderate improvements when they blitzed.

Still, they must find a way by any means necessary to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand faster than they have over the past few seasons.

“When it doesn’t, it means points and yards for the offense. And that’s just the reality of football at any level when the passing game is an integral part of it”.

About the Author

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


  • blue

    Just win baby !

  • ApexSteel

    Which is true, but the secondary has been getting murdered by underneath passes. That neutralizes the pass rush.

  • Ike Evans

    Need jarvis to step up, need tuitt to make an impact need shazier/spence to be playmakers….give me that lord and our defense will not just be good but scary again

  • charles

    Like the last couple of years, we will know by the end of the first half of the first game whether the Steelers have what it takes. Carnell has not been properly credited for the impossible job that he has been tasked to do. That is having to hold coverage for more than 6 seconds. Here’s hoping that McKullers can demand a double team. That would be the edge that LeBeaus 3-4D has been lacking since the losses of Hampton and Aaron Smith.

  • RW

    In Lebeau’s defense, the underneath stuff is something they’re willing to give up. His philosophy is that the more plays an offense has to run, the higher the likelihood of a turnover. Problem is when you run into Tom Brady. Finally they played man on them a couple years ago and really challenged the underneath stuff. Just gotta start mixing up the play calling within a game and they’ll be fine.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    When you look at where pressure could realistically be generated last year it really clarifies why we drafted the way we did. The pass rush was our number one priority.

    Heyward and Worlds was pretty much it.

    Yeah, barely a professional team. You can say Timmons and Poly I guess but they were far too busy covering for other weaknesses.

    Now we have two DE’s that will bring legit pressure.

    Timmons won’t have to help Shazier like he did Williams and the ability of Worlds, Shaz and Timmons to rush (as well as the rush put on by Cam and Tuitt) will also free Jones to generate more pressure. A solid front will also allow Mitchell, Poly and Shamarko to to generate pressure.

    We went from 2 players who could help to two players who won’t. In one year! Not bad.

  • cencalsteeler

    Hopefully they’re instilling to these guys to get their paws up, too. With the popularity of the quick three step drop to avoid the rush, if we can’t get to the qb, we should be able to knock some balls down. Cam and Kiesel picked that up pretty nice last season.

  • dgh57

    Just need to be able to let our OLBs to pin their ears back and get after the QB. On paper I think we have accomplished that. Also we need to stay healthy on the defensive side of the ball.

  • Rikki Giaro

    Hopefully that is where Shazier comes in , using that speed to help in coverage across the middle.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Pedigree could be considered questionable.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I really hope this guy can turn into the hulk and play angry with a chip on his shoulder

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Exactly how can you get a successful pass rush if cbs are ten yards off soon as the qb feels pressure he just make the short passes BUT on the other hand if cbs were covering their man better the qb will try to wait till find an open receiver and most won’t try to force the issue resulting in a int thus buying more time for our lbs/dl to get qb pressure which leads to more sacks but thats just me