Javon Hargrave Not To Blame For Poor Showing Against The Run

I said earlier today that the only thing that has been consistently good for the Pittsburgh Steelers so far has been the performance of wide receiver Antonio Brown, but perhaps that is not entirely fair, even if it might be technically true.

When he has been on the field, second-year nose tackle Javon Hargrave has certainly been consistently very good. But he hasn’t been given enough opportunities to be on the field to put him in the discussion, even in spite of the fact that Stephon Tuitt has to date still played just two snaps on the season.

The former third-round draft pick did see his highest snap total of the season on Sunday, logging 38 snaps, the vast majority of that coming against the run. Now, you might scratch your head as to how I could say he played well despite logging most of his time against the run on a day that the Bears put up 220 rushing yards.

The simple fact of the matter is that it wasn’t the interior of the defensive line that was the problem with the run defense against the Bears. It was pretty much everything else. Chicago ran so much outside zone plays stretching to the boundaries that a nose tackle can only play such a minor role in affecting that.

I went back and looked as the Steelers’ work against the run on Sunday, and it’s pretty clear that the nose tackle had little chance of doing much, though his one tackle in the game did come against the run and went for a one-yard loss.

The Bears do deserve a lot of credit. They did a lot of interesting and creative things with their running game, including a lot of misdirections that the Steelers could not counter. I noticed at least one play in which there was a designed cutback for both the running back and his leading fullback right after the handoff.

The truth is that by and large, Hargrave did his part in the running game. A lot of the runs were stretch runs, and he showed as well as you might expect him to moving laterally and maintaining his gap. But if the play doesn’t come near his gap, there is little he can do.

The passing game was secondary for Chicago on Sunday, but Hargrave was a handful for the offensive line in those instances. He only got about a dozen snaps rushing the passer, but he managed a sack and a couple of other hurries for his efforts in that small body of work.

The small-school product already has two sacks in this early season, matching his total for the regular season during his rookie year. I don’t think anybody has improved more from last year to this year so far. Which makes it all the more perplexing why he had not seen the field more prior to Sunday. According to Pro Football Focus, he has the highest pass rush productivity among all interior defensive linemen who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps with two sacks and eight hurries on 37 pass rushes.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Steelerfan56

    “They did a lot of interesting and creative things with their running game, including a lot of misdirections that the Steelers could not counter.” So that means we will probably see a lot more of this. I hope it doesn’t take Butler 4 games to figure it out.

  • ATL96STEELER

    From what I could tell…if they weren’t just taking the edge outright, the Bears were sealing the strong side DE and it created wide cutback lane that the weak side ILB should have been flowing to fill. They were, but that was 4 to 5 yds downfield. Considering that was a patchwork OL in CHI…I’m pretty concerned.

  • Michael James

    It’s borderline criminal that Hargrave doesn’t see more snaps. He is be the best player on defense right now (one thing where I agree with PFF) and I’m absolutely serious here.

  • Randy

    Wait till we see Brady

  • treeher

    Z you can only prepare so much and then you have to have good on the field coaching

  • Andrew

    There are some days I just want to give Gravedigger a hug…

  • Shane Mitchell

    Dare I say he might be the best defensive lineman on the team, he is a potential double digit sack guy if they give him the snaps. Not sure what the coaches are thinking, the game film and stats tell the story, he is a disruptive force and needs to play more snaps.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I still remember exactly where I was the day we drafted Casey Hampton out of Texas. I remember thinking: “Hmm, pretty good pick, but not very sexy.” Well it turned out to be EXTREMELY sexy.

    And the picking of Hargrave is turning out to be equally sexy.

    Truthfully, we’re very close to the point where the coaches need to start struggling to find the reasons to take this guy off the field. Hell, I’m borderline to the point where I’d make him a LB, if they insist on Heyward/Tuitt up front in the sub-packages.

  • MC

    Why cant Haley do some of this as well. Seems to work for everyone else.

  • MC

    LT Walton had a nice couple plays if I remember correctly

  • Sdale

    Or, if the guy is that good, why not run more true 34? If all 3 linemen can rush and disrupt, why do we need to take anyone off. Replace one of the LBs if you need a 5th db.