Steeler Fans: How important is Casey Hampton?

I’ve been a Steeler fan for most of my life. I believe that the nose tackle is the “rock” of 3-4 defenses. I think a team must have a world-class nose tackle for a 3-4 defense to be dominant. And I think I’ve noticed that the Steeler defense over the years reflects this. I have 2 questions: 1) Do you notice that the effectiveness of the Steeler defense declines significantly when Casey Hampton is out of the line-up? and 2) Are there any objective metrics that demonstrate this? (i.e. defensive points or yards allowed when he is in the game vs. when he is not in the game)

Sorry, this should be in The Game Room.

I alerted the mods.


I watch all the games and pay a lot of attention to the D-Line. I see a big difference when Hampton’s out, more in the way the rest of the defense plays than in the effectiveness. Chris Hoke has done a great job as the back-up but teams don’t double-team him every play like they do with Hampton; some teams have triple-teamed him this year. Hoke is a more active NT, a high-motor guy like Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel are. Casey doesn’t get to the Quarterback but he pushes the line back more often than not and that frees up the LBs to either penetrate the line or watch their gaps better. Keisel as been playing like a man possessed this year and teams simply can’t double-team all three guys so that’s why the outside linebackers have been getting to the QB so much. Even though I’m a big fan of Casey Hampton, I don’t think it’s a huge drop-off to Chris Hoke. If you get to the third guy, Travis Kirschke, I think you’d see much more of a change in the effectiveness of the D. In my opinion, Aaron Smith is more vital to the D than Casey Hampton, although Nick Eason has played better this year than last.

As far as metrics go, I think you could find some numbers on their D with and without Hampton at various scouting sites but you have to pay for them.

I can’t comment on the Steelers or Hampton in great detail, but I will say that I don’t think that NT is the linchpin for the 3-4 any moreso than any other member of the front 7. Having an elite guy there makes offenses adjust, but having an elite guy for one of your D lineman in any scheme creates the same type of adjustments to compensate from the offense.

I would even go so far as to say that the 3-4 might be better at compensating for a subpar NT than the 4-3 is at covering for a subpar DT. The rationale being that a 3-4 is sometimes misleading. The OLBs almost always lineup on the line of scrimmage as DEs creating a 5-2 front. On most other downs one of those OLBs comes down to essentially create a 4-3 front. So, from that perspective the 3-4 has more players who are able to get penetration and has extra LBs in place in order to cover for a NT that get handled.

That said, NT in a 3-4 can be a bit more difficult than playing DT in the 4-3 because the NT is sometimes called on to play a 2 gap technique. The Steelers version tends to rely on Hampton to do both depending on situation which makes him very useful and allows LeBeau to mix up the angles of attack from the middle LBs but the Zone-Blitz 3-4 is very effective at covering a 1-gap NT and a very fast, penetrating 1-gap NT could even be better than what Hampton does in some situations.

You shouldn’t make the mistake that most football announcers do when saying that a player “required a double team”. This is almost never a result of the players ability, it’s a result of the scheme the defense is running and the technique the play calls for the defender to employ. If the play calls for the NT to line up in a 1 or 2 technique and attack the A-gap then he’s almost always going to get a double team. This is actually the goal the defense is trying to achieve by calling that play, the Center and Guard have to handle him in most situations. By attacking that gap it might create a hole in the B-gap where a LB or Safety can penetrate. The downside to this is that the NT essentially removes himself from the play in order occupy those 2 blockers and if there’s a play called to the opposite A-gap the offense is going to get a big play. Chances are Hampton isn’t doing anything that special, it’s just that LeBeau feels like he’s better at attacking 1-gap as opposed to playing a 2-gap technique.

A 3-4 is truly elite when all 3 of it’s down lineman can play both a 1-gap and 2-gap technique and stand their ground when they are getting attacked as opposed to attacking. If they can stand their ground in the face of a run right at their gap then the defense will be able to use their LB at will. It won’t matter if Hampton is elite if the DT on either side is getting moved by 1 blocker.

The NT rarely plays anything other than 2-gap, Casey Hampton is responsible for both A gaps; the term 1-technique, 2-technique, etc. refers to where they line up compared to the O-line. The rules prohibit the NT from lining up head up over the center so Casey is always shaded to one side or the other. The Steelers tend to have Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith each covering two gaps, Brett Keisel’s role varies. When Chris Hoke fills in at NT he’s still holding the A gaps.

Casey Hampton is an elite NT because he forces so many disruptions in the running game. Not only can he man his gap against a Center and a Guard, he can blow up traps or zone blocking schemes and force everything to the outside. Granted it doesn’t do any good unless the ends can man their gaps as well. A player like Richard Seymour (who’s clearly a better player than Casey Hampton) discourages runs from his side but doesn’t cut down the options in the running game as much as a dominant NT does. Casey Hampton, however, isn’t nearly as effective at disrupting the passing game, that’s where guys like Seymour are more complete IMO. You won’t see Casey Hampton playing 3-and-long downs.

I heard Casey was disappointed when Pittsburgh signed Byron Leftwich, the only QB in the league he can outrun :stuck_out_tongue:

Cite? The rules as I understand them only are in effect on punts and field goals.

Jesus, the Steelers suck, why debate Casey Hampton’s fat ass?


You’re correct, I misunderstood a play from a while back. Casey does usually shade one way or the other but not for the reason I thought. He was called for that penalty back when the rule was brought it in but it was a mistake on the part of the officials.

Hah, they still list him as 325 lbs. I don’t think Casey Hampton has been below 350 for quite a while, probably closer to 400 these days.

Yes, he’s approaching Sam Adams/Gilbert Brown stature…

Thank you :slight_smile:

I thought this’d be a good time to bump this thread; Steelers play the Chargers this weekend. As good as Casey Hampton is it’ll be even more interesting to watch the Steelers O-line try to handle Chargers NT Jamal Williams, the one NT I think is superior to Casey. The last time I watched him play he was manhandling Steelers linemen two at a time all day and that was against a couple of pro-bowlers, Hartings and Faneca. I’m interested in seeing how the inside runs turn out on both sides of the ball in this one.