WHERE HAS THE OUTSIDE LINEBACKER PRODUCTION GONE?
This isn’t another column about the broken line of succession for the Steelers at outside linebacker. I’ve written that article and spouted off on air about that for years now.
I’m done openly begging for the next pair of players to step up and carry the torch as Lloyd and Green passed it to Porter and Gildon…to Harrison and Woodley…with a Chad Brown and a Clark Haggans mixed in along the way.
I’m resigned to the reality of the Steelers current situation at that position. It’s a collection of four guys trying to equate the productivity of two. Heck…maybe even one.
One of them is an oft-injured first round draft choice (Jarvis Jones), who no one wants to call a bust…but also certainly can’t be called a success. Another (Bud Dupree) is a rookie who is learning nicely but still is worthy of the “work in progress” tag. The third is a reliable reserve cast aside by Buffalo (Arthur Moats). But no one who should be counted on as an impact performer.
And of course the final one (the aforementioned James Harrison) is a team legend on his second go round with the organization who defies the odds of how much water he can slurp up from the Fountain of Youth. But it’s starting to run pretty dry.
Want the unfortunate evidence? Harrison has just two sacks this year. He has none in the last three games. And he has managed just three tackles in that three game stretch.
But the problems extend well beyond Harrison. The four Pittsburgh OLBs combined for just three tackles over 70 defensive snaps against Oakland last Sunday. There were no tackles for loss amongst the group. And the entire defense failed to sack Derek Carr despite his 44 pass attempts.
On Tuesday at his weekly press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin wouldn’t call out that group specifically. But he did say, “I thought (vs Oakland) we could’ve done a better job in one-on-one rush opportunities. I didn’t think we created enough pressures on third downs. We weren’t creating the type of negativity that we’re capable of. We could’ve been more competitive in one-on- one rush opportunities.”
Defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward were likely part of that criticism too. Neither of them impacted that Raider game as much as they have in previous weeks either. But those two have combined for 7.5 sacks (with Tuitt playing just six games) while the four OLBs have totaled nine in nine games.
Yet, when presented with the specific lack of results by the outside linebackers Sunday, Moats & Jones tried to make the debate more about Oakland’s scheme than issues from within the unit.
“They ran a lot of quick game and ran it up the middle. It’s hard to make plays up the middle if we are outside,” said Jones.
Moats echoed that sentiment. “If it’s inside runs or passes, you Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"