I think it is safe to say that Pittsburgh’s pass rush has been nothing short of inconsistent this fall.
Although certain players like Cameron Heyward (3.0 sacks) and Jason Worilds (6.0 sacks) have picked up their play in recent weeks, the fact that Pittsburgh’s defenders have only combined to rack up 25 sacks (27th in the league) through their first 12 regular season games illustrates just how anemic the team’s collective pocket collapse has been.
On Sunday however, the Steelers’ biggest pass rushing threats will have a window of opportunity to shine and break-out when they take on the Miami Dolphins.
Like Pittsburgh’s offensive line, Miami’s offense has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play as well. The bizarre bullying scandal between Richie Incognito and Johnathan Martin has only added more to the unit’s lack of cohesiveness. In terms of continuity, or a lack thereof, right guard John Jerry is the only member of the Dolphins’ offensive line who has started all 12 of the team’s regular season games.
With a lack of continuity and so many moving parts along their offensive line, it is no surprise that the Dolphins have allowed more sacks (45) than any team in the league this season.
Now that Miami’s beleaguered offensive linemen are set to square off against one of the league’s worst defenses when it comes to creating pocket collapse, one has to believe that something has to give when both team’s weaknesses are pitted against each other.
On the edges, Pittsburgh’s outside linebackers must bring plenty of heat against veteran tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie. While Worilds has shined as of late, the Steelers could stand to use some strong games from Jarvis Jones (1.0 sack) and the hopefully healthy LaMarr Woodley (5.0 sacks). In addition, the use of cornerback blitzes, particularly from William Gay, might be just what the defense needs to keep Miami’s tackles on their toes.
Furthermore, it would also be nice to see Heyward receive more help up front with Brett Keisel out and Steve McLendon potentially sidelined as well. Ziggy Hood (2.0 sacks) and Al Woods (2.0 sacks) would be the two players who could chip in the most, and some well-time A-Gap blitzes from Lawrence Timmons or even Jones could be key as well.
As I alluded to above, something has to give between Miami’s offensive line and Pittsburgh’s pass rushers when they face each other on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are desperate for a win, and the game could possibly come down to the matchup between the aforementioned weaknesses.
Of course, if the Steelers cannot get back to their havoc wreaking ways on the defensive side of the ball against an offensive line as makeshift as the Dolphins’, then their postseason dreams will be all but finished.
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