The Pittsburgh Steelers have spent the majority of the past decade trying to find and establish their two bookmark edge rushers that they have not had in earnest since 2011, when James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley were still in a semblance of their prime. It was during that season that it all began to unravel, and they haven’t found a conclusive solution since.
The coaching staff has over recent years instead relied upon the platoon approach for the most part in order to get the most out of their outside linebacker position, at times utilizing a loose rotation, while at others relying upon the ‘hot hand’ approach.
But they have been chomping at the bit to end that strategy. The only problem is that in order to do so, it requires that they have those two stalwarts at the position who can not only handle the snap load, but can also consistently perform over that body of work.
“We’re always searching to get those two guys, those premier pass rushers”, outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said during the spring in the late goings.
Porter himself was, of course, one of those premiere pass rushers that the Steelers once had the luxury of calling their own.
Over seven seasons as a full-time starter in Pittsburgh from 2001 through the 2006 season, Porter registered at least nine sacks during a season four times. The Steelers have not had anybody reach that number since Woodley and Harrison both did it in 2011.
Pittsburgh was at one time not content unless they got at least 20 sacks from their two starting outside linebackers. Now they are hoping to get about 15 from a group of four or five pass rushers.
Or at least that is how it has been. But they want and expect that to change now.
Bud Dupree is entering his third season now and he showed that sort of potential late last year after he returned from an injury that caused him to miss most of the season.
He had four and half sacks in the final four games of the regular season. And T.J. Watt was their first-round draft pick this year, apprenticing under Harrison this year.
“If we’re getting that production from those guys, they are going to play”, Porter said about any combination of his pass rushers that are putting up the numbers. “It’s that simple. We’re trying to win championships. However we get it done, we’ll take it”.