The San Francisco 49ers defense struggled mightily against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The pass rush could get nothing going, and Antonio Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey had little trouble getting behind the secondary. It is often described as a chicken or egg thing with poor pass rush vs. poor coverage, but on Sunday, I don't think the 49ers got quality play from either group.
One player who did have a solid game was rookie defensive tackle Arik Armstead. He did not blow the doors off Heinz Field, but he showed off some strength, which once again gives him something to build on moving forward. Pro Football Focus counted up four QB hurries by the 49ers defense, with Armstead getting two and Aaron Lynch getting two. Lynch got his two in 15 pass rush snaps, while Armstead got his in eight pass rush snaps.
We've got a couple Vines from Armstead's performance. This first one was the most interesting to me. Armstead comes up the middle, but then cuts over to the right after the running back comes out of the backfield. We see Armstead hesitate, and Ben Roethlisberger is able to throw the deep ball (incomplete). My guess is Armstead caught the running back out of the corner of his eye, and he was concerned about the dump-off over his head. We don't know for certain without knowing the play-call, but it appears to be something of that sort. Any other thoughts on it?
Oscar from Better Rivals posted this second Vine. Armstead might have benefited in part because the offense was setting up a screen pass. But his defender stayed in front of him, and Armstead had little trouble pushing back on him. He will need to work on his recognition at times (as we potentially saw above), but the arrow seems to be pointing up for Armstead through two weeks.