As any team with a .333 record on the season would, the Pittsburgh Steelers enter their Week Eight game seeking solutions to a number of different problems. One of the biggest issues on their plate is how they compensate for the loss of Stephon Tuitt, their sixth-year defensive lineman who was performing at a borderline Pro Bowl-caliber level by the time he suffered a pectoral tear that ended his season prematurely.
If there is some small solace in the situation, it is that it happened as they were heading into a bye week, so they will have had an extra week to come up with ways to adjust to their new reality. The Steelers had been striving to get away from blitzing as much as they had in the past, and were able to do that successfully thanks to the performance of their front four.
But Mike Tomlin understands that that approach will have to change when you take away one of the core pieces of that four-man rush, something that he talked about on his weekly show with Bob Pompeani.
“We have enough schematics and enough candidates that it’s gonna be a shared job in terms of absorbing the impact of Tuitt”, he allowed, “but make no mistake, there will be an adjustment”.
That adjustment by no means will be limited solely to others on the defensive line stepping up. Obviously Tyson Alualu and Javon Hargrave are going to play a larger role, and one of the younger guys will have to have some type of role, period, but other parts of the defense will have to supplement the loss as well.
Calling Tuitt “a tremendous catalyst for that havoc”, Tomlins said that replacing him is “not a one-man job. We have some candidates, not only candidates in the defensive line room, but a mix of candidates in terms of people that we can employ to rush a quarterback. We’ve got outside linebackers that are very capable rushers. We’ve got inside linebackers like Vince Williams who are very capable rushers”.
The good news is that the Steelers have recent history of success as a blitzing pressure team. They have led the league in sacks in each of the past two seasons, and in each of those years, they manufactured a fair bit of their pressure through blitzing. That was especially the case in 2017, when they set a new franchise record for sacks in a single season.
What will Tomlin, Keith Butler, and company have drawn up over the past two weeks in preparation for tonight’s game against the Miami Dolphins? Tomlin was pretty emphatic in saying that they are making adjustments, so I expect that those adjustments, or at least some of them, will be readily apparent.