Steelers defensive ends getting new assignment this season


The Steelers are going “old school” when it comes to tackling in practice, but it’s a whole new world for their defensive ends.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s defense has long called on defensive ends to sacrifice personal glory for the greater good of the team, something that has worked out well as the ends occupy blockers and the outside linebackers swoop in to drop quarterbacks. That didn’t work out all that well last season and defensive end Brett Keisel explains that the Steelers will be trying something else out this year.

“We definitely need to get more pressure up front,” Keisel said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There’s been an emphasis more on getting on the edge rather than just pushing the pocket, getting on the edge and trying to make something happen.”

Other teams running the 3-4 have had success deploying their ends in this way and J.J. Watt had 20.5 sacks from the spot on his way to the Defensive Player of the Year Award last season. It is hard to imagine Keisel or any other Steelers end putting together that kind of season, but it’s not hard to understand why the team is shifting its philosophies.

With James Harrison gone, LaMarr Woodley coming off a subpar 2012 and the Jason Worilds/Jarvis Jones competition to be sorted out, the Steelers don’t have a ton of certainty when it comes to pass rush from their outside backers. LeBeau hasn’t lasted this long without being able to find new wrinkles when the old ways aren’t getting things done, although it will be some time before we know whether this move goes into his greatest hits file.

52 responses to “Steelers defensive ends getting new assignment this season

  1. So they’re switching from a 2 gap defense to a 1 gap defense then? So many people see 3-4 and think they’re all the same and 4-3 and they’re all the same, but there’s 3-4 defenses that play like traditional 4-3 defenses by 1 gapping (Houston, now Pitt) and 4-3 defenses that play like traditional 3-4 defenses by 2 gapping (Denver, NE). Too bad “experts” like Peter King don’t explain that (or know it) instead they just talk about JJ Watt getting pressure from a 3-4.

  2. Pittsburgh Steelers Defense – Ranked #1 6 out of the last 12 seasons.

    Baltimore Ravens Defense – Ranked #1 1 out of the last 12 seasons. Last year ranked #17. They haven’t seen the bottom yet, it will get worse.

    Jumpball Joe won’t be able to save you this season, the bad breaks/luck has already started.

  3. Good luck with your gimmicks, LaBeau. Retirement is calling anyway so you might as well bet on a miracle.

  4. Or, its just a new wrinkle added to last years #1 overall defense. There’s nothing to fix here.

    Before this “old” talk begins, lets look at the Steelers front 7:

    Ziggy Hood – 26 years old
    Steve McClendon – 27
    Brett Keisel – 34
    Cam Heyward – 24
    Lamar Woodley – 28
    Lawerence Timmons – 27
    Larry Foote – 33
    Jason Worilds – 25
    Jarvis Jones – 23

    Thats a grand total of 2 players over the age of 30. Try to come up with something new to hate on…

  5. Expect a similar article from every other afcn team, in the next few years. Model franchise.

  6. Mentioning JJ Watt is not applicable. Just because he got 20+ sacks doesn’t mean he’s an edge rusher. Nearly all of his sacks came against OGs, not OTs.

    Watt collapses the pocket and creates interior pressure so QBs can’t step up in the pocket like they do against teams with great outside rush.

    If the Steelers are going to use their DEs as edge rushers… it’s very different than how the Texans use JJ Watt. You can’t get a 3-4 DE 20+ sacks with scheme. He’s just a freak.

  7. The Steelers have to go “old school” because they are OLD.
    This team isn’t going to the playoffs for the next decade. Time to blow up and rebuild.
    When TD Tebow knocks you out of the playoffs, its time to fire everyone and start NEW.

    Of course the leagues most obnoxious fans will point to worthless stats like defensive rankings, record, etc.
    The only thing that matters is what happens at the end of the regular season.
    Did they make the playoffs?
    If so, how did it turn out?

    We all know the answers about the Steelers last 3 years, right? LMAO!

    They will as usual be overranked again this year, but 8-8 is a generous prediction

  8. Keisel remember if you get a sack do not drop down to one knee and do your sack celebration of shooting a bow, because some lame offical will give you a 15 yard penalty.

  9. jb….sure sounds like you got the champs on your mind. just so you know the nfl is an offensive league and steeler offense is, well, not good. “jumpball joe” led the nfl’s 10th ranked scoring offense and as you know had a playoff run for the ages

  10. Well we can’t count the ravens out since the season hasn’t started yet, but it does look grim for them. Hopefully they miss the playoffs so we can stop hearing the 5 straight appearances with 3 AFC title games.
    Things are looking better and better for Pittsburgh.

  11. Iknoweberything, doesn’t matter how old that defense is, they are still tops. Sure they gave up 2 early games but that will change. The offense needs to be consistent thru out the year. Giving the current rate of players in Baltimore getting hurt I’d be more worried about them making the playoffs. As to no playoffs for the steelers for the next decade, that’s your wishful thinking. They will make the playoffs more then missing them in the years to come. They will drop the aging players over the next 3 years and be young again.

  12. Silly Steelers…

    They must have thought they have a T-Sizzle, who can do both. You have to play to your strengths. If you have a bunch of old guys, you play to their strengths. ie Checkers or something like that.

  13. They would be better off getting pressure from Palamalu on the outside. He was retired the last few years, is he planning on staying retired?

    Never mind, I guess with the Defensive Ends being asked to put pressure, that answers the question. Palamalu will be retired, I mean playing again.

  14. Woodley’s assignment was to stay away from the buffet table between plays.

    If you can’t generate a pass rush from the OLB might as well give the ends a shot. Something has to work.

  15. Whatever happened to Chris Carter, the kid from Fresno State? He was a talented guy who got stuck in a pretty thick logjam of pass rushers. Wonder if he’ll break out this year.

  16. I’m talking Ravens because its clear that their offense has taken a hit with the injuries and the exit of Boldin and I don’t see an upgrade or #1 WR on that team. And the players Ozzie drafted are garbage.

    That means they will rely on that pathetic no-name defense. The secondary is below average as well as the ILB’s.

    I’m “excited” about the 2013 Ravens!!!

  17. The Steelers feel they need to change something? Judging from this site, I would have thought the Steelers were perfect, executed everything flawlessly, were going to have a perfect season, and 32 (or more) teams would be using all of the Steelers schemes within 5 years.

  18. chiefs have also made the switch from a traditional, two-gapping 3-4 to a one-gapping, multiple 3-4. the two-gap approach is outdated, IMO.

  19. J.J. Watt shouldn’t even be mentioned in the article as he is a freak of nature and blows up any part of the line that he attacks. Otherwise In LeBeau We Trust. To dish on LeBeau only shows a balance of denial and ignorance.

  20. well jb…i guess we will see. but with players like suggs ngata dumervil webb canty smith i dont get your “no names”. good luck with your offense. you will need it

  21. crownofthenofool says:

    Woodley’s assignment was to stay away from the buffet table between plays.
    You must’ve been asleep this off-season – 1/2 your team showed up either overweight or in shackles.

  22. It took a long time for a Ravens fan to comment yet right out of the gate a Steeler fan brings up the Ravens. Wow.

    So @jtbsteeler….. have you looked at your own WR core before casting stones at the Raven WR? Are you counting on Plax to be your #1 or Brown? Brown was #3 last year. Sounds like Steelers are in the same situation as the Ravens with #1 and #2 gone (although HM may return at some point).

    The different might be that Ravens also have a perennial top 5 back in Ray Rice, a backup with huge potential, and universally the leagues best road paver with Vonta Leach.

    And yes we will also rely on our pathetic no name defense (sarcasm) with well known names like Suggs, Ngata, Webb, and Dumervil.

  23. oh…and i dont really get how you made the statement that all the players ozzie drafted are garbage when youve never seen them play in the nfl. no one has. but keep huffing and puffing my friend. even a stopped clock is right twice a day

  24. I’m absolutely amazed no one seems to know just what was wrong with the Steelers offense in 2012. The very major problem was a front five that was injured, re-injured or out. If the established (already) front five can play together for 12 or more games, you can forget all the other AFCN teams, including the Bengals. Before you spout off, do a little research of the playoff teams vs. the Steelers on the front five offensive players.

  25. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2013 AFC NORTH CHAMPIONS. Fix’s are in place. Got knocked down, 2013 is just the beginning of brushing ourselves off. I feel bad for the rest of the NFL who has privilege of standing in our way.

  26. > Before this “old” talk begins, lets look at the Steelers front 7:

    That’s great except you left out their starting secondary. Apparently Polamalu (32), Ryan Clark (33), and Ike Taylor (33) don’t count.

  27. crownofthehelmet says: Aug 6, 2013 1:09 PM

    You must’ve been asleep this off-season – 1/2 your team showed up either overweight or in shackles.
    There were no off season weight issues on my team. Injuries yes. Weight issues no. Not a Ravens fan. Keep fishing.

  28. I wish Ravens fans would stop making idiotic comments on Steelers articles and Steeler fans would stop making idiotic comments on Ravens articles. It really makes both fan bases look stupid…..and I’m a Steelers fan!

  29. scoobie doo, are you actually including Jimmy Smith and Canty as big names? Canty is a 4-3 DT that had the luxury of playing alongside Tuck and JPP. And while he is a big name, Dumervil is no longer a 4-3 DE , so who knows how successful he’ll be as a 3-4 OLB.

  30. i am including dumervil. he is coming off another double digit sack season and there are lots of teams im sure would love to have him. as far as canty, i hear ya, but with the depth on the d line i wouldnt be surprised to see him have a good year as an indispensable role player all good teams need. jimmy smith is a first rounder who hasnt lived up to his expectations. but i imagine his confidence is high after the super bowl. he made big plays, and yes controversial, but he made plays on the biggest stage. so as i said we will see

  31. crownofthenofool sys:

    There were no off season weight issues on my team. Injuries yes. Weight issues no. Not a Ravens fan. Keep fishing.
    Well then, given the fact you’re obsessed enough with a couple of Steelers fans to honor them with a screen name, then I’ll conclude you’re either a Cin or Cle fan. In that case, you’re right, you don’t have those issues. But I wouldn’t even know where to begin discussing the other issues your team has. Come back when you can compete.

  32. Maybe it’s just me, but I took this as the Steelers DE’s being a little more aggressive when they rush 3 or 4 guys, and drop 7 or 8 into coverage.

  33. Scoobs, you say 5 straight playoffs is a success, I say it’s 4 straight unsuccessful seasons. We have 6 rings is not the go to defense for all steeler fans, but when someone else brings up championships it’s not living in the past for them. All the ravenites brag about their 2 rings in 13 years, but in that window the steelers went to 4 AFC title games and 3 SB. Just because they barely missed out on the playoffs the last 2 seasons doesn’t mean they are irrelevant. If That o-line stays healthy and learns to block, the ravens will be #3 in the AFCN.

  34. hey jm…so in the same time frame that the ravens have won 2 sbs, the steelers have won….2 sbs. and you bring up afc title games…ravens have been in 4. so if the ravens make the playoffs its not a success but if the steelers make the afc title game and or lose the sb it is a success? i will never deny the steelers success over the years….they have had an amazing run for sure. and teams define success in different ways. at the end of the season only 1 team will be happy. but what i do know is you cant win it all unless you make the playoffs…so in the last 5 years the ravens have had a legit shot to do that making 3 afc title games. and if you want to play what ifs, what if lee evans doesnt drop the damn ball. but he did. be well my friend

  35. The only what if I brought up is if the line can stay healthy, no what ifs about the past. The only true successful season is 1 that ends with a ring. Everything else is just moral victories, that the team hopes will lead to a ring. The ravens may be the better team right now, but its a small gap and they are still 1 of the 3 little brothers in the AFCN. They are borrowing the division title that belongs to the steelers and on the occasion the bengals.

  36. scoobies:
    How dare you!!!
    SuperBen has won six Super Bowls, and he’s going to win six or seven more before he’s done. Every Steelers fan knows that.
    I demand an apology!!!

  37. LaBeau has run out of tricks. Look for his forced retirement along with Roethlisbooger’s in December when the Steelers go 4-12. Tomlin will just be fired and players like Woodley will be dubbed the chief grousers of the NfL. Ravens, Bengals, and Browns will sweep, accounting for half the teams’s losses.

  38. I would like some if what joemontanagkacco is smoking. Despite 8 turnovers the steelers were still in position to sweep the browns. Lost a close one and split with the bengals. A blown punt coverage from sweeping, and a defensive manhandling, the ravens. The #1 defense who lost an over the hill Harrison and a stud, but no hands, Lewis, and the mountain if a man Hampton will be just fine. TE has issues, Brown and Sanders will be fine, and if the o-line stays healthy(and blocks well) Big Ben and the running game will shine.
    Due to current events,
    Cincy 11 wins
    Pitt 10 wins
    B’more 8 wins
    Cleveland 6 wins

    The rate Baltimore is going they will be hiring local bartenders to play WR and TE.

  39. The Steelers own the AFC North, everyone else rents year to year. I fully expect the landlord to be back this year.

  40. Joemontanaflacco says: Aug 6, 2013 7:38 PM

    LaBeau has run out of tricks. Look for his forced retirement along with Roethlisbooger’s in December when the Steelers go 4-12. Tomlin will just be fired and players like Woodley will be dubbed the chief grousers of the NfL. Ravens, Bengals, and Browns will sweep, accounting for half the teams’s losses.

    You have no idea what you are talking about. Ravens couldnt even sweep us during your championship run last year. Doubt if you will sweep us this year either. Hope this doesnt come back to bite you this season. As the nest burns… Go Steelers!!!

  41. I think its more telling of how much we miss Aaron Smith. He set the bar high for Ziggy Hood and company. He was underrated as a player but Steelers fans remember the havoc he caused.

  42. my sincerest apologies bob. i should be paying homage to the almighty ben. please forgive me.
    can someone please explain to me what the steelers did to improve their offense. the defense is excellent but how are the steelers scoring

  43. Well, they replaced Hines Ward with Plaxico Burress. How about that one, scoobies?
    I think that if I wanted a veteran receiver, I would’ve stuck with a proven difference-maker and team leader rather than go with a player no one else wanted. But that’s just me.
    Secondly, Tomlin showed Batch the door, even though Batch was a serviceable replacement for a starter who misses three games per season. He also shoved Max Starks out the door, leaving a perennial injury-plagued O-line without quality depth.
    It became obvious to me over the years that Tomlin had an immense dislike for Batch, Ward and Rashard Mendenhall. It’s all about egos.

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