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What’s a Spinner OLB? T.J. Watt Explains the Importance for Steelers

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PITTSBURGH — The Steelers pass rush was unbelievable on Sunday in Buffalo. They got the most pressure in the NFL for the week with 18, and they only blitzed one time on the game.  Part of the way they were able to do this other than through pure talent is by adopting a spinner role. T.J. Watt, Melvin Ingram, and Alex Highsmith all had reps where they were standing off-ball over the interior of the defense. That is something that Watt expects to continue and proves as vital to the defense.

“It’s just a way to more movement with four,” Watt said of the role. “We can make look almost like a blitz, or we can bring five out of a look like that, too. So, it’s just adding a different wrinkle to a four-man pressure to make it look different and get different types of matchups. Listen, if we’re in a four-man front, we’re not just going to sit there and give you the same look every single time either.”

However, not only is working from that alignment a great way to get pressure, but it changes the keys that the defenders have to read. Watt talked about the massive change above the neck that is required when they all shift positions from the outside to the inside.

“You have to know what you’re looking at,” Watt said. “I think that’s the biggest thing is, when you’re sitting in the middle, you have so much to look at. When you’re on the edge, you just have to look at your tackle. In the middle, you’re seeing into the backfield, the running back, so just knowing what you’re keying in on and staying to that. You’re just trying to not see too much.”

It remains to be seen how much this role is used, but it first appeared when the Steelers went to Baltimore in 2020. That means there is legitimate potential for all three of the Steelers’ talented linebackers to be on the field with this role as well. So, it appears to be an integral part of their blitz packages moving forward.

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