Dick LeBeau is one of the renowned pioneers of the zone blitz in the NFL and his 3-4 scheme is nearly as entrenched in Pittsburgh as Big Ben, Heath Miller and Moses Guthrie. However, change is a crucial component for even the most respected defensive mind in the game. Offenses change and defensive strategies have to change with the times to better defend them.
The Steelers aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they are putting some brand new rims on it.
A major reason for the adjustment is due to necessity and roster turnover. James Harrison is gone and rookie Jarvis Jones is still learning the complexities of the NFL game. So what are the Steelers doing differently? LeBeau has asked their ends to push upfield and become "one-gap" ends this season rather than occupy two gaps while their outside linebackers pursue the passer around the edges.
"We definitely need to get more pressure up front," Brett Keisel said Tuesday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "There's been an emphasis more on [ends] getting on the edge rather than just pushing the pocket, getting on the edge and trying to make something happen."
"We've kind of changed our techniques [from] years past until now," said Keisel, who led the Steelers by a wide margin with 41 pressures in 2012. "In years past, when we had James (Harrison) and LaMarr (Woodley), it was mostly just push the pocket, try to collapse the pocket, make the quarterback flush and those guys would be there to clean him up. That's what we were taught."
Last season, Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel and Cameron Heyward combined for a paltry nine sacks last season, but if LeBeau's track record of coaching up Steelers defenses is any indication, they'll be getting a lot more face to face time crushing quarterbacks.