Anatomy of a Sack: Keisel vs. Gabbert

JJ’s recent post on the intricacies of Dick LeBeau’s defense inspired me to break down a Blaine Gabbert sack from last Sunday’s Steelers win. Clearly, my knowledge of Xs, Os, line play and pretty much anything else in which the answer isn’t “Ryan went to college with Mike Tomlin — did you know that?” is limited, but I found the exercise interesting nonetheless. You’re welcome in advance.

With 3:25 remaining in the first quarter and facing a 3rd and 6 on their own 34, the Jaguars came out in a four-wide set, Gabbert in the shotgun and a running back to his left. The Steelers initially showed a one-deep look, but just before the snap another safety dropped deep (not sure if it was Clark or Mundy or somebody else) to make it a 2-deep shell.

Pittsburgh had six players on the line of scrimmage, with Farrior and Polamalu lined up to the left, in the gap between the nose tackle and Woodley. In the image below, you can see that both dropped into coverage. On the other side of the line, Timmons rushed off the right edge and Keenan Lewis, playing in bump-and-run coverage at the top of the formation, also came on a corner blitz. (Note: click any of the images to make them larger.)

We talked about Keisel’s presence on the last podcast, and this play spotlights his importance. Pre-snap, he’s lined up just inside Timmons, over the left tackle’s left shoulder (image 1).

Just before the snap, he moves inside and attacks the Jags’ left guard and center (image 2). Also note that the right tackle either doesn’t see Woodley to his right, or the blocking scheme is for the line to slide left.

Either way, the running back has to come from the left side of the formation to pick up Woodley, a clear mismatch (image 3).

Also note that the Jags’ center is now engaged with Keisel, leaving the left guard and tackle to pick up Timmons and a blitzing Lewis. In theory, all Pittsburgh’s pass-rushers are accounted for … except an inexperienced Gabbert panics after not seeing his initial read open, tries to step up in the pocket, and Keisel (who is now double-teamed) slides to his right and gets the sack (images 4 and 5).

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  • Anonymous

    Wait you went to college with Mike Tomlin?!?

    • ryan

      I know, right? Shocking!