Mark Kaboly | Tribune-Review
In a wave of negativity surrounding the Steelers opening-season 16-9 loss to Tennessee, some encouraging things actually have been overlooked – like the play of the defensive line.
In a 3-4 alignment, the defensive line isn’t supposed to pressure the quarterback. Their job is to be gap sound and occupy blocks in order to allow the linebackers to make the tackle.
Against the Titans, the defensive line did that and also brought the pressure to Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker.
According to the Steelers official miscellaneous stat book put together by coaches after watching the film, the Steelers had 13 pressures – 11 coming from the defensive line.
That might not sound like much but you have to take into account that last year the unit managed only 77 in 16 games with 40 of them coming from Brett Keisel. Also, the 11 pressures by the defensive linemen are more than double what they averaged a year ago (4.8).
“It is great to hear that but when you ain’t got no W up there it doesn’t matter what kind of pressure numbers or tackles or sacks you have,” defensive end Ziggy Hood said. “Nothing is worse than a loss.”
The hope of a defensive line that consists of a pair of first-round picks is finally contributing is exciting to Keisel.
“We have to get guys into situations where they can do that,” Keisel said. “It can be a strength for us. We have to get teams in situations where we can apply pressure.”
Cameron Heyward, a first-round pick three years ago, had four pressures all of last year. He has three against the Titans in limited action.
Steve McLendon, who replaced Casey Hampton at nose tackle, had six last year. He had three against the Titans. Hood contributed one as well
“As a whole, we played pretty solid up front,” Keisel said. “That’s what we have to do. Those guys have a lot of expectations and they are living up to it so far.”