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Analysis: Buffalo Bills pass rush better than you think against Pittsburgh Steelers

I’m serious you guys

Hello all! If you’ve followed Buffalo Rumblings for the last few years you’re likely used to a weekly game recap titled “All-22 Analysis: [Insert Topic Here].” While I could dedicate more than enough words for an article on how the NFL has made it difficult for film junkies, I’ll leave it with this...

There’s no All-22 film at the moment. Well. I’m confident it exists. I’m just more confident I don’t have it. Things might look a bit different for now (less GIFs for sure), but we still got some good stuff for ya.

Let’s talk about the Buffalo Bills’ pass rush against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Following the game, I saw a lot of comments like “They didn’t even touch Roethlisberger.” Let’s examine...


Time to throw

If you’ve been a Bills fan for more than the bandwagon years (pssst... that’d be this year), you may remember a guy by the name of Tom Brady. One thing you might remember specifically was this nasty habit he had of getting rid of the ball quickly, which helped negate the pass rush of opposing defenses. Get rid of the ball quick, don’t let large men slam into you.

Thanks to nextgenstats.nfl.com, and their incredibly quick ability to track Time To Throw I can tell you that Ben Roethlisberger averaged 2.3 seconds from snap to throw. No one was faster in Week 1. If you felt the pass rush was lacking, the first point I’m making is that by design the Steelers made it tough for them to hit home.

One more piece of evidence—Ben Roethlisberger, per Next Gen Stats, had an average intended air yards of 5.7 yards. That was tied for the third-shortest in the league. Intended air yards is the average distance the ball traveled past the line of scrimmage on all pass attempts. Put simply, this means the Steelers stuck to short and quick passes.

They never touched Big Ben...

That’s...

There are some GIFs below to prove it, but this was odd to see people saying on social media after the game. Jordan Poyer and Mario Addison both registered sacks. Addison’s SHOULD be hard to forget as he forced a fumble, too. Poyer and Addison also registered a QB hit too, along with Ed Oliver, A.J. Epenesa, Vernon Butler, and Harrison Phillips. That’s eight times that made the stat sheet.

It’s important to note that those are only logged on passing plays. Roethlisberger attempted 32 passes. That means he was getting knocked around quite a bit. To reiterate, that’s WITH the fastest release in the league.

Here are some GIFs

Before we get to the GIFs, I’d like to point out that the headline image at the top of the article is Greg Rousseau chasing Roethlisberger. He wasn’t credited with a hit or sack, and this image illustrates that pass rush often goes beyond stats.

Here’s the first sack the Bills registered on Ben Roethlisberger. Mario Addison is around the edge pretty dang quick, creating pressure at about the two-second mark. Note: All times are “about” as the GIF software gives a good estimate using frame counts, but not perfect. Roethlisberger tries to buy time, but as you can see Addison catches up.

This is a great definition for “QB hit.” The ball comes out and the QB hits the ground. Ed Oliver bursts through and makes contact at about 2.5 seconds in, which is just a bit longer than it took to get the ball out. This play is not only a great definition for a QB hit, but it perfectly represents the razor’s edge alluded to above. If you hit at 2.5 seconds in, you’re just a bit too late on a 2.3-second average release.

I chose this play for a whole bunch of reasons. The first is to dispel the idea that the defense had a terrible day. This was about five minutes left in the third quarter and they had allowed three points. The defense kept the Bills in the game. I also like this play because you’d see the stat sheet and come to the conclusion that Tremaine Edmunds didn’t help the pass rush any with zero sacks and zero QB hits.

This gets logged as a pass defended but it’s absolutely a pass-rush play. One reason Roethlisberger will be a Hall of Famer is that he knows his bones will be ground to make Edmunds’s bread if he holds this ball for two seconds.


Summary

Now of course the pass rush and defense weren’t flawless. But they got to Roethlisberger eight times (sacks and hits) and caused some havoc quite a few other times as well. They held Pittsburgh to six points through three quarters. After allowing a touchdown four minutes into the fourth quarter the Bills were down by a field goal. A large part of all that was a pass rush that was far more effective than many seem to be giving them credit for following a disappointing loss.