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QB Challenge - Pittsburgh Zone Blitz

What To Look For

I wanted to expand on some of the details of this QB Challenge. As always, QB Challenges are hosted on our Instagram a few times a week, click the photo above to link directly to our account.

So the questions that were posted...

1. What defensive play is this?
2. What alignment clues tip you off pre-snap?
3. Who blew the coverage resulting in a TD?

We got some really good answers but I wanted to be sure everybody knew some of the finer points of this "Safer" pressure. I also included a couple history lessons, its good to know your roots and how we have arrived at where we are.

There had been many teams that tried and tinkered with the Zone Pressures but it wasn't really perfected until 1992, when Dick LeBeau joined Dom Capers in Pittsburgh. Together, they would help the Steelers become the "Blitzburgh" that we still see today.

Understand, the Steelers are a 3-4 defense, meaning there are 3 DL and 4 LBs, and typically those LBs get to rush the passer A LOT. Hello James Harrison, on behalf of all QBs everywhere, please just retire already so we can all get some sleep.

1. This is a Strong/Field Zone Blitz. A "Blitz" must include a secondary element to be truly considered as such, notice SS/R Troy Polamalu pressuring from the strong side. Also in any Zone Blitz or Zone Dog, the coverage behind should end up being a 3-deep, 3-under zone. The design of this defense is to only rush 5, but overload the OL to one side making it seem like many more, while having a sound 6 defender coverage behind it.

2. The alignment is key here, and probably contributed to the Steelers detriment in this example. In order to send this pressure from the field, the Steelers must end up in an under front, notice the slant of the DL as #96 becomes the contain player. Additionally, the 3 underneath zone defenders have to creep into position pre-snap, they often times have a lot of ground to cover. Notice how close LB #51 is to LB #91 pre-snap, this gives Cam Newton plenty of time to recognize the rotation. The secondary can also clue your in, but Polamalu does a good job here of disguising right up until the ball is snapped, when he becomes the field contain rusher.

3. The structure of any good Zone Pressure has to have 3-deep + 3-under. The boundry CB tries to make a play but Cam makes a strong throw. James Harrison, the weakside underneath LB, could have done a better job getting into that passing lane to help the CB over the top. Ultimately, at the end of the day, the CB gambled and lost, I'm sure the coach had some choice words for him as he came off the field.  

Hope this brings some clarity to the nuances of the Zone Pressure package and specifically how the Steelers & other 3-4 teams implement it.

Until next time...

-Coach Nate Longshore

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