Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

JohnsonAnd03.jpg

» Factors: Andre Johnson

One of the NFL's best receivers notched a -2.3% DVOA last year. Does a target-by-target breakdown show he was better than that?

26 Jan 2006

Every Play Counts: Joey Porter

by Michael David Smith

Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter was ridiculed, and rightly so, for his comments before his Steelers played the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the AFC playoffs. "They don't want to just sit there, line up and play football," Porter told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of the Colts. "They want to try to catch you off guard. They don't want to play smash-mouth football, they want to trick you .... They want to make you think. They want it to be a thinking game instead of a football game�

But an analysis of Porter on every play of Sunday's 34-17 win against the Broncos demonstrates that even if Porter plays dumb in the locker room, he excels by playing smart on the field.

Like every linebacker, Porter disguises his blitzes, sometimes lining up as if he is going to blitz and then dropping into coverage, other times acting like he plans to cover a receiver and then rushing the quarterback. But what makes Porter unique is the extent to which he conceals his plans. On the first play of Denver's second drive, Porter lined up at outside linebacker, faked a blitz by taking four steps into the Broncos' backfield, then turned around and ran back into coverage in the flat. Porter didn't have any impact on that play, but that was just the opening gambit in a chess match that he ultimately won against the Broncos' offense.

Two plays later Porter accomplished what he had set out to do with that fake blitz. He lined up exactly as he had on the previous play, but this time he didn't cut off his blitz. Instead, he sprinted into the backfield at the snap, running past tight end Stephen Alexander and knocking him to the ground with one swipe of his right hand, then hitting Jake Plummer and forcing a fumble that Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton recovered. Sacks and forced fumbles are nothing unusual for Porter (he had 10.5 sacks and four forced fumbles during the regular season), and setting the offense up with fake blitzes is the kind of smart football that yields those results.

Denver had trouble with Porter's speed rushes all day, most notably at the beginning of the second quarter, when the Broncos got down to the Steelers' 12-yard line. On first-and-10, Porter used a speed rush to the outside, got a good first step past left tackle Matt Lepsis, and forced Plummer to hurry his pass and overthrow Ashley Lelie in the end zone. On the next play, Porter did another speed rush and again hurried Plummer into an incompletion. Mike Anderson's third-and-10 run came up three yards short of a first down, and Denver had to kick. Those two consecutive hurries on speed rushes by Porter were the difference between a great opportunity for Denver to score seven points and having to settle for only three.

Porter is great at the speed rush, and he had to be against Denver because he struggled when he had to take on blockers. On a third-and-9, when Porter tried to overpower Lepsis on a bull rush, Lepsis easily engaged Porter, who never got close as Plummer completed his pass. On Plummer's 32-yard pass to Rod Smith, one of the few times all day that Plummer had plenty of time to pass, Porter rushed directly into Lepsis, who stopped him at the line and never let him get close.

Even though he has trouble engaging offensive tackles, he does sometimes line up at right defensive end when the Steelers use their nickel package, which consists of four linemen (including Porter), two linebackers and five defensive backs. On Plummer's costly interception late in the first half, Pittsburgh was in that alignment, with Porter rushing Plummer. Although Porter's rush wasn't the decisive factor on the play, Plummer's bad decision was helped along, in part, by the fact that he didn't seem to adjust to the personnel. If Pittsburgh had been in its base 3-4 package, a linebacker would have covered Stephen Alexander downfield. But in the nickel package, Pittsburgh had cornerback Ike Taylor in coverage, and Taylor picked off Plummer's pass. Porter's versatility allows him to stay on the field in those nickel packages, when a lot of linebackers would be on the sidelines.

Because Porter's game is a speed game, the best way to play him is to run directly at him. On a second-and-9 on the first drive, Porter showed just how successfully teams can run at him. Denver tight end Wesley Duke blocked Porter, and Mike Anderson ran behind Duke and picked up four yards, with Porter not having any impact on the play. Duke is a 225-pound rookie who only played basketball in college. Does that sound like a dominating drive-blocker to you? Porter struggles when he has to hold his position at the point of attack. The Football Outsiders line stats back up this contention: The Steelers are one of the best teams in football at stopping runs up the middle, but they're mediocre at stopping runs around the ends. If a tight end like Duke can take Porter one-on-one, a much better blocking tight end like Seattle's Ryan Hannam should have a lot of success blocking Porter.

If Seattle does try to test Porter by running at him, it ought to try it with simple handoffs to Shaun Alexander, rather than trickery on end-arounds or bootlegs, because Porter does a good job of staying at home when he is on the backside. On a fourth-and-1 Mike Anderson run, Porter lined up at right outside linebacker. Anderson ran to the opposite side from Porter, and it would have been tempting for Porter to sprint down the line and try to assist on the tackle. But he knows that those are the types of plays that get linebackers burned for long gains when the quarterback fakes the handoff and rolls to the outside, so he stayed at home on the play, ready to make the tackle if Plummer had kept the ball on a bootleg or handed it off on an end-around. He's a very disciplined player.

Even though Porter often drops into deeper coverage than most linebackers do, three plays illustrate why his closing speed prevents opposing offenses from taking advantage of that for short gains. On a second-and-10 in the second quarter, Porter dropped into coverage on Stephen Alexander, but when Plummer took off running, Porter quickly pursued him and stopped him for a gain of only a yard. Later, on Denver's first play of the second half, Porter dropped into deep coverage but then closed on Anderson in a hurry when Plummer hit him on a swing pass, taking him down at the line of scrimmage. And in the fourth quarter, Plummer avoided the Pittsburgh rush, scrambled around, and flipped the ball to Anderson for what looked like it could be a broken play-turned-big play, as Anderson got the ball with Lepsis and fullback Kyle Johnson in front of him. But Porter avoided both Lepsis and Johnson to tackle Anderson for two yards.

As much as Porter's pass rush is Pittsburgh's greatest strength, the biggest hole in Pittsburgh's defense is its inability to stop passes to running backs. When Porter blitzes he leaves open the chance for the opposing quarterback to toss the ball over his head to a running back, and several teams have taken advantage of that. Seattle rarely uses Shaun Alexander as a receiving threat, so there's not much reason to think the Seahawks can exploit that weakness in Porter's game. If Mike Holmgren is to draw up a game plan to take advantage of Porter's aggressive blitzing, he might have to try something a little crafty, like having fullback Mack Strong pretend to miss a block on a blitz pickup, only to run a short route on a screen pass.

A play like that would be another form of the trickery that Porter says he disdains. But it's a safe bet that he doesn't hate it as much as the quarterbacks he sacks hate the way he disguises his blitzes. That's why Porter's use of the Steelers' brand of deception is what has them in the Super Bowl.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season. Next week we'll examine one aspect of the Seahawks. If you have a player or a unit you would like tracked in Every Play Counts, suggest it by emailing mike-at-footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 26 Jan 2006

50 comments, Last at 05 Feb 2006, 2:03pm by Joel Crooms-Porter

Comments

1
by James C (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:33pm

Another good article. Porter causd havoc for both the Colts and the Broncos, Manning especially just didn't seem to know what to expect. Manning reads too impatiently for my mind, he looks to offload the ball so quickly that the defense hasn't always revealed itself fully - especially when the offense is under pressure to score.

On another point, can anyone tell me why Aaron Smith occasionally lines up between right guard and tackle but a yard back from the line of scrimmage? I first noticed it in the divisional game and it was used again in the Broncos matchup. It seemed to precede blitzing the B gap on the left side of the offensive line and seemed to work but why line up your end a yard deep?

2
by Luz (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:38pm

i said this in the extra points article about porters comments but i'll say it again. that article didn't do porter any favors. it neglects to mention that porter went off on that tirade after being asked several times about comments from colts players that they smacked the steelers around. hence joey went bonkers and said that they didn't hit them harder or player tougher they just ran against nickel and dime fronts. i don't think anyone here would disagree that is the smart move to make. and doubt that porter really thinks it is stupid either. it's just that he took grave offense to the comments that they got out-muscled. hence his "just line up and run the ball" comment. i doubt this defense will do much good though.

3
by Bob (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:48pm

Jeesh Luz, where have you been? No one cares about context. Ask Peyton Manning if anyone cares about context. It's the sound bite that matters, because we all know it's the sound bite that imparts the most accurate and complete description of what actually happened.

4
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:55pm

Bingo. Whether Seattle can pressure Roethlisberger effectively with four or fewer rushers, and whether Seattle attacks the perimeter effectively on the ground, will very likely determine the outcome. There isn't a whole lot more to analyze, so I really wish they were playing this Sunday.

5
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:04pm

Re: 4

Define "pressure effectively" - Ben does not have a history of making mistakes when under pressure from the pass rush, and has a strong history of effectively avoiding the rush. On the other hand, when he has made mistakes, its usually been by trying to be Brett Favre and win the game by himself (e.g., throwing into triple coverage).

The best way for the 'hawks to affect Ben's play is to get a lead and completely stifle the running game. A good pass rush won't necessarily do anything.

6
by Kal (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 3:38pm

#5: once again, the important point isn't pressure effectively - it is pressure effectively with 4 or less rushers. If they do not get pressure with their front 4 Seattle will blitz more, and that will be problematic. If Seattle can regularly keep 7 or 8 people in coverage while putting some pressure on Ben, they'll probably do pretty well.

What's amusing to me is to see all these commentators say that Pitt is going to come out and smash the ball against Seattle to establish the run. Gods, I hope they do that. Seattle is great at smashmouth running D. Folks say they're undersized but it really doesn't seem to matter. Seattle's big weakness is their pass defense.

7
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:02pm

However, if Seattle starts showing 4-man rushes on every play, Pittsburgh will simply assign fewer blockers and get good gains on short passes underneath. Lots and lots of coverage, and by extention just having a small rush, isn't the whole answer.

8
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:08pm

If Seattle can regularly keep 7 or 8 people in coverage while putting some pressure on Ben, they’ll probably do pretty well.

Well, put pressure on Roethlisberger, keeping guys in coverage, and guard against screens. The main thing Seattle needs to avoid doing is attempting to shore up "run and/or screen defense" by pulling guys out of coverage. Their secondary isn't good enough for that.

The other thing Seattle probably needs to avoid is overthinking. Just play honest - don't try to jump a route, just stay with the receiver. Same reason why blitzes are dangerous for them.

I definitely agree about Seattle on offense versus Pittsburgh, though - attack the ends, and deal with Porter and Polamalu blitzing. I'm really surprised that Denver didn't try screens to the RB that Porter blew by later in the game. That was very odd.

9
by Balaji (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:11pm

#6, Kal: What’s amusing to me is to see all these commentators say that Pitt is going to come out and smash the ball against Seattle to establish the run. Gods, I hope they do that.

Well, people said that all week before the Colts game, and the Steelers came out throwing. They said it again all week before the Broncos game, and again the Steelers came out throwing. I hope they keep saying it now, and play the run exclusively on the first series.

These aren't the late '90s Steelers anymore. They can and will throw the ball early. Whether they can effectively take advantage of Seattle's pass defense early on could determine how this game goes.

10
by Kal (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:13pm

When Denver did run screens they were largely successful - especially to the left side where Polamalu wasn't. After they almost got a safety running a screen in their end zone (a really dumb move) I think they kind of went away from that. Both Seattle and Denver don't tend to run a lot of screens though, so I wouldn't expect to see that a whole bunch.

And yes, saying Seattle's D needs to do X is overly simplistic. My gut feeling is that if Seattle blitzes a lot, they're going to lose. If Pitt blitzes a lot, I also suspect they're going to lose. Damn you, Easterbrook!

11
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:17pm

#4, I would define pressure effectively as making any qb consistently throw the ball, or take off running, prior to being able to survey the field completely. On a few occasions last Sunday, the Broncos forced Roethlisberger to tuck the ball, and settle for a short gain via running. The Seahawks need to do this far more frequently than the Broncos did, while leaving at least seven in coverage, thereby minimizing the chances that a wide open receiver will be found.

On those occasions when Roethlisberger does give an opportunity to make a play on the ball, either via int or a break-up, the Seattle players in coverage have to do so, unlike the Denver dbs. Having at least seven players in coverage increases the chances that somebody will have a chance to make a play on the ball, if the Seattle rushers don't get a sack. If the Seattle rushers don't pressure effectively, thus allowing Roethlisberger to go through all his options, perhaps even startng over again, or if Seattle needs to bring five or more rushers consistently, in order to prevent Roethlisberger from having this much time, Roethlisberger will likely stake the Steelers to a substantial lead once again.

If this happens, as it did versus the Colts and Broncos, then Pittsburgh's defense is optimally positioned to do what they do best.

12
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 4:31pm

Well. yes, Fnor, if having at least seven in coverage, including handling the short routes underneath, means Seattle only gets a small rush on Roethlisberger, then Seattle will likely lose. That is what there is so much pressure on Seattles' defensive line; if they get help via the blitz to hurry Roethlisberger more than a very few times, Seattle is probably going to lose the game, and if they don't get help via the blitz, and thus Roethlisberger is able to take his sweet time in waiting for receivers to find open spaces, Seattle is probably going to lose the game. Seattle's defensive lineman must have very, very, good performances. I have no idea whether they will.

13
by Richard (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:30pm

EPC has become my favorite football read: a great synthasis on homework, insight, and writing.

I would like for there to be two EPCs per week: one early in the week highlighting a performance crutial to the previous week's games; another late in the week as a preview of what the author thinks will be an interesting (potentially decisive) aspect of an upcoming game.

In short, can't get enough EPC.

14
by MDD (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 5:56pm

If the Straw Men rush 4, they will not be able to get effective pressure on Big Ben, but if they blitz, Big Ben will pick them apart at the seams. Hence the final score will be Steelers 34, Straw Men 17.

15
by Manteo (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 7:01pm

#14 - Big Ben no doubt whistling "Sweet Georgia Brown" the whole way through...

16
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 7:19pm

Both Seattle and Denver don’t tend to run a lot of screens though, so I wouldn’t expect to see that a whole bunch.

Yah, but when you've got an aggressive defense like Pittsburgh is, that's what screens are for. You've gotta adjust.

I'm betting that we see at least two variations of the "Seneca Wallace, WR" play, though.

17
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 7:34pm

Seattle's problem with running screens is that Alexander is a TERRIBLE reciever. Its not that he wasn't used, its that when he was used he sucked. -20.5% DVOA, 15 catches out of 28 passes thrown his way for 78 yards. So they'll either have to run them to Strong, or take Alexander out of the game when they run screens.

The first option isn't bad, since Strong is 7.3% DVOA, and caught 22 of 27 passes for 166 yards. Problem is, the Seahawks have shown no propensity over the season for throwing more passes to Strong than Alexander, so we can't expect them to suddenly realize that Strong is a much better reciever.

The second option is bad, since the Steelers obviously don't have to worry quite as much about the running game when Alexander is off the field and can play pass more, which will likely result in less gained on the screen.

Of course, this whole discussion is predicated on the assumption that the Steelers are particularly vulnerable to screen passes. Are there any stats on team defense vs. Screens? I know the Steelers are 30th vs. passes to RBs, but that's mostly due to passes in the flat. Watching the steelers this year I have the impression they're certainly no worse than average vs. screen passes, but maybe that's just my lying eyes.

18
by J (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 8:06pm

Nice Article.

Porter is a great player, and has played extremely well the past 5-6 games. However, he can be frustrated. If a team can negate him early in a game, he will get frustrated. Once he gets frustrated, he plays like garbage.

Also, Porter is poor against the run when he is rushing the QB often. He is a good run stopper when he is not pass rushing often. I am thinking the Steelers will not rush Porter as much in this game. Seattles Oline is great on the left side - both run blocking and pass protecting. I think the Steelers will rush LOLB and MLBs more than Porter...not saying Porter won't pass rush at all, but not as much as recent games.

Also, I think the Steelers will bring more blitzes from the secondary. They are good at disguising these blitzes, and have had success with rushing CBs and Ss...earlier in the season - I have not seen it much in playoffs. These blitzes would have Porter dropping into coverage. He is good in coverage.

Porter is a vital part of the Steelers D; however, I do not see him having such a NOTICEABLE impact on this game. He ripped Indy and Denver apart, but that was the game plan. In this game, IMO, he will not have such a "big" part in the game plan. He will, as all Steelers do, accept his role in this game plan or he will get frustrated.

19
by Luz (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 8:14pm

#18

that sounds pretty reasonable. i was thinking the other day that the steelers might employ haggans more as the rusher this game. my thinking was that seattle might start off by sliding their protection towards porter. haggans is also a very good rushing LB and would be able to take advantage of that. plus, hasselback is a lefty so haggans would be able to rush his blind side, where as porter would be spotted more easily by hasselback. maybe porter will spend a lot of time fake blitzing and dropping back into coverage.

20
by Comrade Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 9:21pm

In terms of Seahawks blitzing or not blitzing, when did the Steelers offense become an unstoppable force? Granted, they've been playing very well, but they were 10th in DVOA for the year with one of the biggest variances. Obviously, the numbers are better if you drop the Maddox games, but it's not like they are the best offense ever. You can't blitz them or they'll kill you! If you don't get pressure they'll kill you! It sort of reminds me of all the talk before the Pats-Rams Superbowl, although obviously the perceived differences in those teams were more extreme.

21
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 9:22pm

If Seattle has to give any additional help to their Death Star left side of the o-line, that will be an excellent indication that they're likely to lose. Jones and Hutchinson should be able to handle Pittsburgh's rush.

I'm expecting to see Polamalu and Townsend, Pittsburgh's d-back blitzers of choice (since both are essentially undersized linebackers) coming at Hasselbeck from the right side pretty often.

I for one personally think that the reverse of what Will insists about Seattle is also true for Pittsburgh: To win, Pittsburgh is going to need to get pressure on Hasselbeck, who does not handle pressure nearly as well as Roethlisberger, with only the standard four rushers.

22
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 9:23pm

#20: Any good offense led by a great QB is going to kill you if you can't get pressure on the QB with your usual four rushers. A big reason why the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI is that they chased Warner around without having to blitz much.

23
by Luke (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 9:39pm

Hasselback (sic) is a lefty? Wow, that makes his performances this year all the more remarkable. What would his QB rating be like if he threw with his left arm I wonder? Must be saving it for the SB.

24
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 10:00pm

You can’t blitz them or they’ll kill you! If you don’t get pressure they’ll kill you!

Ah HA! I was waiting for this comment! :)

It's not that the Steelers' offense is an unstoppable force - it's that the Seahawks biggest vulnerability is in their pass defense, and the Steelers' pass offense is one of their biggest strengths.

The two teams really have no major flaw each - they're both solid pretty much overall. But if you had to pick out one flaw in Pittsburgh, you'd say "passes to running backs, and runs around left and right end." If you had to pick out one flaw in Seattle, it'd be "pass defense."

So it's not that the Steelers are an unstoppable force. It's that the Seahawks have to find a way to cover their only liability.

25
by Comrade Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 10:26pm

#24: Okay, I'll buy that. Thanks.

#22: I totally agre, although the same thing is true for Seattle.

26
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 10:38pm

re 22
And what of the Pats game last year, when they rushed 3 and sometimes even 2 guys....And stopped Manning.
Or the next game against Pittsburgh, when they rushed three and Ben had all kinds of time and just did nothing. Its not just you, I hear it all the time. But the idea that if you give a qb 5-6 seconds to throw he will kill you is just so wrong. OK its not always wrong but think about it.
How many qb's can look at 4 guys on one play and not get impatient and try to jam it in there? A well played 8 man zone is pretty tough to beat.

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 10:59pm

Yeah, if Seattle had a tremendous cover secondary, or if Roethlisberger and his teamates didn't handle blitz pressure so well, I wouldn't say it is so imperative for the Seahawks to get pressure with at least seven in coverage. The Seahawks have had coverage problems, however, and Roethlisberger has really made large leaps in the quality of his play over the past six weeks, mostly, I believe, because he's gotten much healthier.

The Steelers had coverage problems earlier in the year, but they seem to have faded. Also, in two of their three playoff games (and the third was against John Kitna) their offense has staked them to big early leads, allowing LaBeau and Co. to turn the dogs loose, in terms of perimeter pass rushers, which takes a lot of pressure off defensive backs.

I could see the Seahawks offense having a big day, on the ground and through the air, if the their defense plays a stout first half, allowing Holmgren to be balanced yet aggressive, keeping the perimeter pass rush back on it's heels with a physical running attack, going downfield occasionally, and using some trickeration in the short passing game.

I just can't get a feel for how likely it is that the Seattle defense will be stout in the first half, so Seattle goes to the locker room with the lead, or only behind by a field goal or so. I've seen plenty of Holmgren's offenses in years past, and am well acquainted with their offensive personnel, but I didn't see them play very much this year, and don't have much feel for their defense. What scares me, in terms of hoping for a good contest, is that Roethlisberger seems to be getting better with each game, although Denver coulda'done a lot to change this perception if they had made a couple plays when they had the chance to last Sunday.

28
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 11:04pm

Thad, do the Seahawks have the personnel to disguise a three man rush well? If so, it may really be useful.

29
by Vash (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 11:52pm

8: Denver threw at least two or three screens behind Porter. Polamalu just kept slicing in for quick tackles.

When you're getting pressure with a 4-man rush, there are players left back to cut down screens before they turn into big gains.

30
by someone (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 12:45am

I don't quite get why the Seahawks RBs being poor at screens and receptions is necessarily a huge problem and Pitt has a huge blitzing advantage here, although maybe I'm creating a strawman of sorts there. If Jones neutralises Porter's rush, we's established the main strength of his game is gone. I would take Jones over Porter one on one any day of the week. The Hawks can then keep in a TE or back for blitz pickup from MLBs or Polamalu. I wonder what the chances are of the Steelers knowing this, rushing three the majority of the game and playing a form of cover-2 type D, forcing more dumpoffs to the Hawks RBs and leaving redundant blockers in the protection scheme? Of course, if Porter can be switched to the strong side, that may be a way to create a matchup problem.

31
by thad (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 1:02am

Will Allen,
I am not sure what you mean by disguise it. I certainly think they could play it. But I was not just talking about the Seahawks, I also think the Steelers could play it well too.

32
by NextCoast Winos (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 6:52am

A couple things:

To my knowledge, Seattle led the NFL in sacks (50) relying on its front four almost exclusively, so all this talk of wondering if they can effectively get pressure and slip seven men into coverage is sorta silly.

They can.

Also, this Joey Porter article gives voice to something I've been thinking about since my ears stopped ringing after the NFC Championship Game last Sunday.

The Steelers Defense is very good, a little bit small and very fast.

The Seahawk Offense is very good, very big and very fast.

And with center Robbie Tobeck getting the (albiet second team) nod to the Pro-Bowl, Seattle features a Pro Bowl center, left guard, left tackle, quarterback, full back and MVP half back able and willing to run RIGHT AT Mr. Porter.

It doesn't matter what kind of fancy-dance trick-like blitz package Pittsburgh can dream up, the ball will be five yards down field before they can find their dance partners.

Before the Indy game, Mr. Porter expressed the wish for a Smash-Mouth Football Game instead of a Trick Play, thinking Game.

Be careful what you wish for, Joey.

Seahawks:30
Steelers:17

33
by johnt (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 7:01am

30: Porter's "main strength" is not his rush. There are virtually no OLB in the league that can consistently beat an elite LT - the size matchup is just too unfavorable. Porter's sacks have mostly been the result of missed assignments or blocking with someone besides a TE. Porter's strength is being a competent pass rusher but a superb coverage guy (for a LB). Haggans is arguably a better pass rusher, although that may just be because he's facing easier competition on the right side.

34
by J (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 10:23am

33

"main strength"

IMO, Mr. Porter's (Mr. ???) main strength isn't his pass coverage. His main strength is the ability to play at a high level at all elements of a LB. He can cover, he can run stop, and he can pass rush.

He is not the best run stopping OLB in the game. He is not the best coverage OLB in the game. He is not the best pass rushing OLB in the game. However, he can do it all very well.

35
by DGL (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 12:12pm

#32: "Seattle led the NFL in sacks (50) relying on its front four almost exclusively..."

Of 50 sacks, 32.5 were registered by DLs, 11.5 by LBs, and 3 by DBs. (The individual statistics on nfl.com don't add up to 50. Apparently 3 sacks were registered by The 12th Man.)

So 65% of their sacks were by the front four. The other 4-3 teams with 45 or more sacks were Miami, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Carolina. Miami had 35 of 49 (71%) sacks credited to DLs; Jacksonville 32.5 of 47 (69%); Indy 41.5 of 46 (90%); and Carolina 33 of 45 (73%).

In other words, Seattle relied on its front four for sacks less exclusively than any other 4-3 team with 45 or more sacks.

Doesn't sound silly to me to ask if Seattle can get pressure with its front four. Especially since the team that is the poster child for "pressure with its front four" -- the Indy Colts, with 90% of sacks coming from the front four -- only got to Roethlisberger twice in the Divisional round.

36
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 1:53pm

"Porter’s sacks have mostly been the result of missed assignments or blocking with someone besides a TE."

I haven't charted all of Porter's sacks, so I don't know whether that's true or not, but assuming you're correct, that doesn't diminish his pass-rushing skills. Part of being a good pass-rusher is recognizing what the offense's protection is and exploiting missed assignments.

37
by Balaji (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 2:39pm

#32: The Steelers Defense is very good, a little bit small and very fast.

Casey Hampton resents being called a little bit small. Mr. Tobeck is quite good, but Hampton is also a Pro Bowl-caliber NT (I believe he did go last year).

On that note, the sight of ~350 pound Casey Hampton chasing Manning toward the sideline is probably the funniest thing I have ever seen.

38
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 2:46pm

Furthermore, one would also need to know if more than four were rushed on any of those sacks recorded by defensive linemen, and also how often hurries were accomplished with four rushing. Sacks are a questionably useful stat for measuring the quality of a pass rush.

I don't pretend to be extremely knowledgeable about Seattle's defense, but when I see their DVOA rank in passing defense, it strikes me as reasonable to ask how consistently effective their defensive linemen are in pressuring the passer, and how effective they will be in hurrying Roethlisberger. I'd rather take my chances with rushing four or occasionally three, however, and having Roethlisberger throw into seven and eight man coverage, than rushing more than four, and giving the Steelers' receivers and Roethlisberger more space to operate in.

39
by DGL (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 3:00pm

Will,

I agree with both your points (how many were rushing when DLs got the sacks, and how many hurries, knockdowns, and tips at the LOS occurred while rushing four). Unfortunately, that kind of information isn't available from the published stats, so I went with what I could find.

40
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 3:10pm

Yeah, sacks are about all there is to work with, as limited as that is. Also, if hurries started to be widely recorded, it would be such a subjective measurement that I don't know if it would be worth much. Sometimes there just isn't a subsitute for watching a lot of games, although that can lead one astray as well, if one doesn't carefully evaluate what one has witnessed. There's reason NFL coaches have 100 hour work weeks.

41
by dutch (not verified) :: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 12:15am

biggest problem teams have running the ball against the Steelers is because of casey hampton. There is no center in Football that can guard him one on one. Therefore you must put 2 guys on him and that already screws up your usual run blocking schemes and forces you to adjust. At which point the Steelers are then dictating the way you play.

42
by NextCoast Winos (not verified) :: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 1:00am

#35. Thanks for the schooling, DGL. I should know better than to come to this site at two AM without my statistical ducks in a row.

I just can't help myself this week. This is uncharted territory for 'Hawks fans; there is no such thing as this in the entire world.

After the absolute ass-whooping administered on both sides of the ball against a very good (though banged up) Carolina team, I still believe Seattle can impose its will, especially on offense, in Detroit.

I promise not to post again until I can back up what I'm saying.

I probably just lied.

Damn, this feels good!!!!!

43
by DGL (not verified) :: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 2:08am

#42: Actually, until this morning, I had no idea if 65% of sacks by the front four was a lot, or hardly any, or what. So you motivated me to dig through the stats for some other teams, and for that, well, you've contributed to the information content...

44
by Steve (not verified) :: Sun, 01/29/2006 - 3:37am

Scope. It's Porter's mouthwash. You'll recognize it on Super Sunday, Mr. Hasselbeck.

45
by NextCoast Winos (not verified) :: Sun, 01/29/2006 - 8:36am

Scope. It's Porter's mouthwash. You'll recognize it bubbling all green and frothy out of the corners of his mumbling mouth on Super Sunday, Mr. Jones.

46
by Fnor (not verified) :: Sun, 01/29/2006 - 8:42pm

#42: Feels good, doesn't it?

That's the one thing, we're all winners here... you can get to the SB and lose and it's not so bad. Losing the championship round... that really sucks.

47
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2006 - 12:28pm

I dunno, Fnor, I've been a Vikings fan all my life; my earliest childhood memory is of Otis Taylor breaking a tackle, and going the distance, to seal the victory in SB IV. I've also witnessed the Vikings losing conference championships in '77, '87 and '00, and I think the Super Bowl losses were more painful. One factor, however, is the degree to which a team was favored to get to the Super Bowl. The Vikings teams '77 and '87 were not expected to get as far as they did, and anybody watching the Vikings five years ago knew how hideous the defense was, so could hardly be surprised at the outcome of that blowout. In contrast, when you get a team, like the '96 Broncos or the Colts this year, who lose in the divisional round, now, THAT has to be painful.

48
by Luz (not verified) :: Mon, 01/30/2006 - 1:09pm

#46

the super bowl 30 loss hurt alot more than all the afc championship losses.

49
by Joel Dias-Porter (not verified) :: Sun, 02/05/2006 - 10:40am

wach out has joye is coming for you

50
by Joel Crooms-Porter (not verified) :: Sun, 02/05/2006 - 2:03pm

watch out seahawks d, ben and joey and the big bus