Analyzing Tom Brady’s Release Time Compared To Steelers’ Pass Rush

The dead horse that is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2016 season was served many blunt kicks by various members of the New England Patriots last Sunday, no kick more impactful than the one served by quarterback Tom Brady. While many in the Steelers fan base would like to move on and never speak of the beating laid upon them by their perpetrators again, many others want answers to why the season was put down so mercilessly.  With that said, the case will re-open in an attempt to find more answers to what went wrong.

Brady finished with 384 yards in the air and 3 touchdowns on route to his best performance in post season action. Beneath those numbers is a set of equations leading to the success that Brady was able to demonstrate last Sunday. The most important was perhaps Brady’s release time compared to the amount of pass rushers the Steelers’ deployed.

The first point to consider is Brady’s snap to release time.  Brady held an average of 2.53 seconds until his release Sunday, consistent with 2.52 seconds in his earlier Week 7 matchup against the Steelers and close to his season average of 2.57 seconds. The second point is the Steelers pass rush, 21 times the Steelers sent only three rushers, 18 times they sent four and just six times did the Steelers send five or more. Comparing Brady’s release to the specific number of rushers sent his way shows a few interesting observations.

What stands out the most are Brady’s release times on the six occasions that the Steelers did decide to send five or more rushers. Brady was releasing the ball a third of a second earlier but did not seem fazed at all by the pressure. Brady’s perfect passer rating in this scenario speaks for itself, showing a quarterback who knew exactly where to distribute the ball in the scenario of a blitz.

The window of opportunity to effectively blitz Brady is incredibly small and craves perfection. With a release of just over two seconds, perfect play would be required from both the secondary and pass rushers. The Steelers’ failure to achieve perfection would not be more evident than on first downs, as Brady proceeded to make the field his personal canvas.

The Steelers failed greatly at applying any pressure at all on Brady when faced with 1st and 10. When the Steelers sent four, Brady had a release time of almost three seconds and still was ultimately perfect. With just 2 incompletions and over 230 yards on respective first down plays, Brady was able to quickly move into more manageable territory or re-start the 1st and 10 process again.

The Steelers came into New England believing they had the answers in order to stop Brady and company. But just like we have learned over the years, the Patriots are always ready to adjust quickly and with the adjustments coming in just over two seconds, the Patriots were actually the team with all the answers. For Brady and his Patriots, the game of football is more than a matter of inches – it is also a matter of seconds.

About the Author

Daniel Valente

Steelers fan from birth, spending majority of my free time looking up statistics. Had the honor of meeting Mike Vanderjagt shortly after his infamous missed field goal in the 2005 Divisional Round. Currently pursuing a Journalism degree. Follow me on Twitter @StatsGuyDaniel

  • Jaybird

    This is why I’m not sold that we need an edge rusher. Lawrence Taylor in his prime could not have helped in that game.
    I think we need to fix this secondary first and foremost. Von Miller and Ware abused Brady , not because they were getting to him in less than two seconds, but their secondary was blanketing his receivers. They had three very good/ excellent corners and really good safeties also.
    And how many friggin times did we see two defenders on THREE patriot receivers. Or one defender and TWO receivers. No pass rush in the history of the league can get there fast enough if receivers are uncovered right at the line of scrimmage.
    Steelers : PLEASE fix this damn secondary !

  • Conserv_58

    This thread is a total waste of time and an exercise in futility.

  • SteelersDepot

    Ok, can I get your email so we can run all post by you ahead of time?

  • Our defense would have been very effective against a Pop Warner team.

  • Spencer Krick

    Yeah, hard to get to the QB in under two seconds.

  • LHW

    Don’t sweat it. That user actually reading the post – and then posting the comment was a “total waste of time” was an actual total waste of time on his part. At least you created something through knowledge, work, and expertise. It is easier to be a troll than to actually be productive and do something. I thought the information was interesting. I am not sure new corners are the answer, I think the Steelers need better schemes. It seems like Butler was afraid to commit either way – no aggressive pass rush, no man-to-man or press, and no real deception on defense. It was like he was just hoping Brady would make mistakes and that does not happen. Teams have to play the Patriots aggressively and force mistakes. As a soccer coach I always tell my players to play aggressive, take space, and force mistakes. It the opposition beats you playing that way, then so be it, they earned. Don’t sit back and react, dictate the flow of the game.

  • Jaybird

    Why so ?

  • pittfan

    this screams out “press coverage”. we were playing off on 3rd and 1 for christs sake.,
    maybe the steelers thought Ben was the QB of the pats on that p[lay and was going to go deep.

  • Chad Sanborn

    I want to upvote this a hundred times! The way you beat Brady is Man Coverage. Bump the receiver at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing. That forces Brady to go through his read progressions.
    He does not do that well if he also has to worry about getting hit. This allows your pass rush to get home. If you don’t have corners who can cover for 4 seconds, then you don’t have good corners.

  • Chad Sanborn

    To beat the Pats, you only have to play like the Pats. Play the same game plan they do. Its not rocket science.

  • Dan

    Brady crushes the blitz. Brady crushes the zone. The Steelers were doomed from the start, as they usually are when facing this team. To beat the Pats, you need to disrupt their timing by jamming the WRs then maintain coverage throughout. Do the best you can to take away Gronk, but you may have to settle with limiting him. You can’t get to Brady effectively unless you make him wait. Is that easy? Absolutely not, as evidenced by their 15 years of success. Then on offense, make no major mistakes and score on as many opportunities as you can. Again, not easy. This isn’t the Bengals, who get emotional and make idiotic mistakes. This is a cold death machine, and the button to turn it off is hard to reach.

    Maybe the Steelers didn’t have the scheme or personnel to do the deed this year, but they have young pieces that are improving, especially in the secondary. They just need to get things figured out scheme-wise, and clean up their mistakes.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Thank you Jaybird –

    It’s amazing to me that casual fans (like you) can see things that Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin do not.

  • Steeler-Drew

    I agree that they are not an edge rusher away if they keep this same scheme. The only way you beat him is with press coverage and four rushers who can get to the QB. As for the secondary I agree they should probably upgrade again this year but they probably won’t see it that way. I think it’s a given they will try to upgrade from Gay but not likely they see the need to upgrade from Cockrell and Mitchell. Part of the problem in switching schemes is they may not know if Cockrell can play man on a consistent basis. Sure he did a good job on Green but it was a home game in bad weather. I think one the issues in this game was not being able to play dime. How many 4 & 5 sets did they have and we are still playing in the nickel probably all game long. Not developing Gilbert or another player for a game like this really hurt them. But I’m with you along with getting an edge rusher I would be all for getting another outside CB early in the draft.

  • Landsnark

    Coaching is the problem. They can do fine when it is pure talent against talent when they play most teams in the league but when everyone knows that New England is going to do to your top players and you still don’t have a response then it falls on the coaches. Brady has torn up that zone for a decade and a half and they still try to run it. Then on offense they know that Bell is going to see at least seven in the box and Brown is going to have a safety over the top and they can’t come up with other players to make the offense work. They will rationalize that if Bell had been healthy it would have worked and they will run the same game plan next year again. Bell’s slow starting style works against most teams because they don’t maintain gap control, while the Patriots aren’t the most talented defense, they are high on the list of most disciplined and don’t leave their gaps open often.

  • RickM

    I’m probably not as reactionary to one game. And I think that’s what’s happening a little here. I kind of look at it and say, ‘were we talking a lot about poor secondary play during the 9-game winning streak?’. Some maybe, but overall we were actually pretty complementary. That’s not so say that Brady didn’t pick them apart. But I think it’s more Brady’s skill, inexperienced rookies, very bad D preparation and poor in-game schemes and communication than significant secondary personnel issues. Other than our aging slot corner, I’m O.K. with whom we have.

    I think you need both a strong pass rush and good coverage guys. I know we don’t have the pressure off the edge we need and Harrison will be 39. I don’t know that we can’t win with Cockrell, Burns, Davis and Mitchell. I respect your opinion as always though and we’ll see what they do.

  • Jaybird

    Rick the secondary “bent ” but didn’t break a whole lot during the winning streak. But I wouldn’t say they were dominant . Or anything close to that.
    I think we need another corner( hopefully Golson and Gilbert can fill that need, and we need a better cover safety(not the biggest fan of Mitchell’s cover skills). And of course I think we need to be more scheme versatile on D. I’m not sure the guys we have fit that bill , but I think they are at least trying with the three rookies.

  • Steel B

    This doesn’t really matter if the offense scores only 17 points.

  • RickM

    They did bend for sure. I agree that slot and Mitchell are the challenges. They may move away from Mitchell and I would welcome that. I guess I just don’t think they will as Tomlin seems so high on him. Not sure why.

  • Rusted Out

    No doubt. The offense was every bit as much to blame as the D. Poor performance and game plan across the board. The defense getting torched is beating a dead horse at this point.

  • mem359

    I’d agree that the Steelers would have had a better chance with man coverage with the way the game was going (only if their players executed), but that wouldn’t have been a guarantee. Sometimes even that doesn’t always work.

    Two years ago, Pats are playing the Ravens in the playoff. The Ravens DBs are giving a cushion on the left side, in the 4th quarter. On consecutive plays, Brady does the same pass to the same spot on the sideline.
    Pass short left to Amendola for 6 yards.
    Pass short left to Hoomanawanui for 9 yards.
    Pass short left to Edelman for 6 yards.

    The DB decides on the next play to jam the receiver at the line.
    LaFell fakes the short route, and without the cushion the DB is left behind the WR down the sideline. Pass deep left, 23 yards for a TD.
    (Burned if you do, burned if you don’t.)

  • Jaybird

    Was that sarcasm?!

  • Jaybird

    Right back at ya bro – 100 upvotes

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    No. I’m dead serious. I am amazed that Tomlin and Butler came up with that game plan and still keep their jobs.

    I am a casual fan. I have very limited knowledge of NFL play calling. But even I can see what schemes give Brady trouble and what schemes let him carve you up like a thanksgiving turkey.

    You’re 100% correct.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    mem –

    This is not personal, so don’t think I’m attacking you, but it’s mind boggling to me that you come to that conclusion… “Burned if you do, burned if you don’t.’… How do you know we’d get burned? We’ve NEVER done it before! (At least not for an entire game.)

    Seattle goes man press, and they beat the Patriots. Denver goes man press, and they beat the Patriots. The Jets and Dolphins and Bills have all gone man press and beaten the Patriots. Even the Ravens have beaten the Patriots going man press (not in that particular game but in other games, playoff games, in Foxborough).

    Meanwhile the Steelers play zone and lose to the Patriots every single time we play them… except two… Once when Brady was on IR. And once when we mixed in press man and pressured him (in 2011). Imagine that?

    You say there’s no guarantees. But i disagree. If you play zone, 10 yards off, against Tom Brady, that’s as close to a guarantee as you’re ever going to get. That you’ll lose!

    Sorry for the rant. Again. Not personal.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Wouldn’t it be crazy if next year, opening night game, Steelers at Patriots, we went with a completely different game plan… and WON?

    Then we’d have to listen to Tomlin in the post game interview when they asked him, “What was different this time?”

    And he’d say, “We went with a different scheme that they weren’t expecting.”

    And they ask him, “Why didn’t you try that scheme before? Like in the AFC championship game last year?”

    And then listen to him try to answer…

  • Nolrog

    Too bad there isn’t a way to just skip items that don’t actually interest you. You know, so you can ignore them and people who do have interest could still read. Maybe that’s something that Al Gore can invent in his next version of the internet.

  • Zarbor

    Its useless having discussions with folks who can’t seem to get that simple fact you stated. I’m done with them. Lets hope Tomlin and company get it after this complete embarrassment.

  • francesco

    How about comparing these numbers with last year when the Patriots faced the Broncos?

  • francesco

    Good point. But I doubt we ever will get the refs on our side. Borderline holding and pass interference are never called against the Patriots.

  • Jaybird

    What gets me is how many times no one is covering a patriots reciever. In the past I’ve seen them not cover Gronkowski more than once in a single game! Friggin Gronkowski ! How do you not have someone cover him?!!! And this past game was ridiculous. It was like there were 13 patriots on the field , with guys running free all over the place. That’s why man to man couldn’t have been any worse. At least it would have been one Steeler on one patriot. If you get beat then so be it. But I cant stand watching us leaving guys uncovered at the LOS. I screamed at least 3 different times to call a time out because you could see that no one was covering a Patriots reciever at the LOS.

  • francesco

    We don’t have good corners.
    Cockrell is a joke. Gay is slow.
    Burns is a rookie that will take time. But it is our safeties too that are hopeless.Mitchell will seldom cover close and Davis is another rookie that will need time and experience. So if it were me I would draft a safety and a corner in the first three rounds.

  • francesco

    All media experts have chuckled at the Steelers game plan on defending against the Patriots.

  • mem359

    You are not hearing what I actually said. I agreed that they would have done better with man (with the caveat that they wouldn’t be missing more tackles with an unfamiliar scheme). All I was pointing out is that Brady HAS burned teams that played man, that it isn’t magic kryptonite that guarantees victory (which is the tone I’m hearing too much).

  • SfSteeler

    fellow casual fan here…

    so, we lost to the best QB because we had no pressure on him or his recievers…we got as far as we could with these weaknesses playing average QBs…

    and doesnt this just show that there are the top 5 QBs and a drop-off and the same said about so very few cover corners available at all levels…?

  • Landsnark

    That is brilliant, it also ensures that he won’t change anything because he wouldn’t want to answer the questions.

  • Aj Gentile

    We literally have Bud and Moats as edge rushers. Two peoples. We need edge rushers

  • thomas hmmmm

    For the most part I am happy with the secondary but I would love to see them start playing more man and press coverage. They need to add that to the arsenal of coverages.
    I think both Cockrell and Burns would flourish with more man coverage.
    Gay who has been the strongest guy in coverage seemed to be the weak link this year. So we definitely need to draft another CB.

  • In order to calculate this, the Steelers defense must first have what you referred to as a pass rush. Or, better yet, here’s the equation:

    Brady’s release time = Steelers pass rush – 1.5 seconds


    Steelers pass rush = Brady’s release time + 1.5 seconds

    As you can see here, when you crunch the numbers, Brady has time to deflate the football after the snap. He kicks back in his recliner while surveying the field via the Jumbo-Tron to find his open receiver. After a mild yawn, and a cup of tea, he proceeds to deliver the pass with pin-point accuracy to whatever wide-open receiver the secondary has chosen to forget about on that particular play. Provided the receiver was not ushered into the end-zone, untouched, by a Steelers defender, he then jogs forward to a fresh set of downs, rinse & repeat.

  • walter

    Receivers were wide open in the kansas city game

  • jsteeler

    Man coverage will only work if you have the DL getting pressure up the middle. 2 more DL like Hargraves, Tuitt and Heyward on the ends generates enough pressure for the CB’s to cover the pass.
    The tape shows the LB’s, slot corner, and SS looking in the backfield and Brady fooling them with his eyes and throwing to wide open receivers. SMDH. With press one CB trails while the other cuts him off to the spot. 4-3 Man anyone? This would be a good year to transition to it. Coach LeBeau’s Zone blitz scheme is still a big part of the defense. It is time for an overhaul immediately to fit the players they have. Coach Tomlin and Coach Butler have time to implement this in the off season. what do you guys think?

  • Geoffrey Johnson

    I do agree that, Von Miller couldn’t have gotten to Brady in time to sack him in the lost… But I think that speaks to the fact that we played 8 yards off the entire time.. I’d like to see how our secondary does if they played closer but nothing can really be said about that seeing as though that didn’t happen and doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon

  • disqus_WrRvUyG2DA

    You can blitz all you want but if your not covering the wrs at the line of scrimmage the qb will hit a wr quickly.

  • Geoffrey Johnson

    Yeah, I agree. I don’t think Cockrell is necessarily a “joke” just isn’t as good as some think he is.. Mitchell isn’t really good at all as far as I’m concerned.. But I’m hoping for an edge rusher, safety and corner in the first 3 rounds also.. Maybe swap one of those with a TE if we feel that badly about LaDarius Green

  • Geoffrey Johnson

    We didn’t face too many good QBs during that 9 game winning streak to be fair