How the Steelers Were Able to Generate a Pass Rush Against the Jets in Week 6

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IOctober 16, 2013

Oct 13, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (56) sacks New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers found their pass-rushing groove against the New York Jets on Sunday after being mostly stagnant in the first four games of the season.

The Jets' offensive line surrendered three sacks, and allowed the Steelers defense to hit rookie quarterback Geno Smith six times. After a closer look, these pressures came off a combination of smart formations, exceptional individual effort and, at times, mismatches the Jets didn't account for.

So let's break down a few of the more memorable plays for the Steelers defense on Sunday and how the Steelers made them happen.

Here, the Steelers used an exotic formation in order to force the hand of the Jets offensive line. It was ingenious to use three down linemen and three pass-rushers behind them standing up.

This was an obvious passing situation, so the Steelers could forgo any sort of run defense at all. Instead they load linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones and safety Troy Polamalu behind the defensive line and dare the Jets to figure out where they are coming from.

At the snap, the Steelers run a double stunt that the Jets offensive line was not ready for. Jones takes a hard inside move and linebacker LaMarr Woodley curls in behind him. On the outside, on that same side, Polamalu breaks on the ball on a straight outside rush.

The instant of hesitation by the Jets tackle is all Jones need to shoot the B gap and pressure Smith. The Steelers used a great formation and excellent execution to create confusion at the line of scrimmage.

Sometimes it's something as simple as execution and timing as shown below.

Here you see at the snap on this play, where linebacker Jason Worilds ends up with a sack, he and Woodley are out of their stances and pushing up the field and the Jets offensive line is still down. Nothing complex about this, but in many cases plays like this set good pass-rushers apart from great ones.

Next, we look at a different way the Steelers attacked the formation of the Jets. This time they load the left side of the offensive line with Jones, Polamalu and rookie safety Shamarko Thomas. 

This formation allows for the Steelers to rush any or all of these three players at two blockers. Previously in the game, the Steelers had stacked one side, but always dropped one player into coverage. Nonetheless, this time they switch it up.

Both Polamalu and Thomas delay their blitz for a beat at the snap. Because Jones comes so hard on the outside at the snap and no one is coming with him, the Jets guard opts to double Jones.

One beat and both Thomas and Polamalu come hard in the void and there is no one to block either. Another impressive call and perfect execution.

Finally, here is how the Steelers simply exploited a poor decision by an offensive lineman to put a bow on this victory. 

Nothing remarkable about the formation. Base defense on first down, and no players even bluffing a blitz.

At the snap this time around, the Jets tackle opts to double-team the defensive end, leaving the running back to contend with Jones. With Jones' burst and violent hands, the back has no shot. Jones puts him on skates, tosses him aside and forces Smith to throw the interception that essentially ends the game.

This sort of imagination and execution hasn't been seen in any game this season up until this point, so it's hopeful that going forward this can continue.