Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: Sept. 29

Let's get to it:

What happened to Blitzburgh? I was confident our defense was going to make big strides this year. Major doubts now. It's clear rushing four is not getting it done. If we continue to play soft, quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, and Joe Flacco are going to have a field day. Are the number of blitzes way down this year or is it me?


ANSWER: I don't believe the Steelers current defensive philosophy is going to fit the nickname, Blitzburgh, and so in that sense, Blitzburgh is a thing of the past. I don't disagree that there needs to be more consistent pressure on the passer, because one sack and seven pressures over the first three weeks of the regular season isn't good enough. But I don't believe the Steelers are going to play defense the way they did when they earned that nickname in the first place. Just one other thing I learned: When the Steelers chart their defenses, a blitz isn't necessarily defined by the number of guys rushing the passer, but it can be defined by which positions rush the passer. As an example, if a cornerback is part of a four-man pass rush, that's a blitz.**

With our obvious inability to rush the passer, would the Steelers ever go back to a 4-3? This might not be feasible with our personnel at the moment, but if we rushed four 'bigs' as we did in the 1970s, we could shut down the run more effectively and also apply pressure to the passer.

ANSWER: Again, I have no argument with the assessment of the current lack of productivity of the pass rush, but the simple act of switching to a 4-3 where four "bigs" are on the line of scrimmage isn't going to fix everything. Those 1970s defensive lines shut down the run and got after the opposing quarterback because of who those "bigs" were, not just that they were "bigs."

What is the fewest number of sacks recorded by an NFL team for an entire season? Any chance the 2016 Steelers set the new record for inability to get to the quarterback?

ANSWER: The NFL record for fewest sacks in a season belongs to the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs, who had 10. The Baltimore Colts had 11 in 1982, and the Buffalo Bills had 12 in 1982. It should be pointed out that the Chiefs' 10 sacks came in a 16-game season, while the Colts' 11 and the Bills' 12 came in a nine-game strike-shortened season.

I am a big supporter of Ryan Shazier, but the reality is that his fifth-year option was declined, he really has a problem with disengaging blocks, and his sack totals have never lived up to his draft position. Are we to the point to say this was a failed experiment or maybe someone else should be evaluating college pass rushers? Now watch, he will have a four-sack performance Sunday night against the Chiefs and debunk my whole point.


ANSWER: I also was a big fan of the pick of Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 draft, and while I believe the early part of his career here contained some injuries that certainly slowed his development, this is his fourth NFL season and it's not unreasonable to expect a level of production. And by production, I mean making the kinds of plays that someone with my limited understanding of professional football can see and recognize as big plays. Sacks. Takeaways. Tackles for negative yards. Doing things that get your unit off the field. There have been some teases, a few plays here and there, but not enough of them. I believe that's why the Steelers didn't pick up the fifth-year option on Jones' rookie contract, maybe even trying to use it as a motivational ploy. But what I know for sure is that when teams get into situations where they are making decisions on big-money contracts for individual players, production is a critical element of the decision, one way or the other.**

Maybe you can provide some insight on why the Steelers had a total of 10 rushing attempts against the Eagles? In the first two games of the regular season, the Steelers had 30 and 36 attempts. Surely we can't give the Eagles credit for stopping the run when they only had to defend eight rushes from our primary back.

ANSWER: One of the most proven ways to stop the run – and this has been true for decades – is to create enough of a deficit on the scoreboard that the opposition has to give up on running the ball in an effort to try to catch up. That's what happened against the Eagles when the Steelers defense allowed a touchdown drive to open the second half, a score that created a 20-3 deficit.

Coach Mike Tomlin explained the situation when he was asked whether he thought the Steelers gave up on the running attack too soon in the loss to the Eagles. "You could say that, but we weren't doing a good enough job of stopping them. Had we gone out and stopped them on the first possession of the second half, we probably would have continued in a more balanced approach offensively. But when that game went to 20-3, it was a little different than 13-3."

I saw all the color rush uniforms were ranked, and the Steelers' wasn't in the top 10. How do you feel about the Steelers color rush uniforms? I personally like them.


ANSWER: Gotta admit, not a fan of the color rush concept as a whole, but I also admit I'm not the target demographic. You understand that's what this is all about, right? It's about generating interest among the fans and selling merchandise. That's why the bumblebees were such a success: they generated a lot of conversation – people either loved them or hated them – and a large portion of the people who loved them bought one. It's the concept known as "voting at the cash register."**

Do you see Justin Gilbert getting a start against the Chiefs, and do you also see Mike Tomlin making any changes to the secondary?

ANSWER: Justin Gilbert starting against the Chiefs? No. But there could be some personnel changes to the secondary, and those changes could be dictated by injuries. Yesterday, Robert Golden (hamstring) and Sean Davis (back) both missed practice, and both of those guys have significant roles either in the starting lineup, in sub-package alignments, or both. As a rookie, Davis is going to have to show Mike Tomlin that he can practice, because knowing what to do is a big part of it. I cannot predict how the Steelers might react if either or both of those guys cannot play, but if changes have to be made, and those changes produce positive results, then my experience is that's how changes can become permanent.

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