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49ers' Smith must handle Steelers' pressure

A few thoughts on where quarterbacks relevant to NFC West teams in Week 15 stand in dealing with added pressure from opposing defenses:

  • Arizona's Kevin Kolb has made big plays against five or more pass-rushers, producing the highest yards-per-attempt figure in these situations. He has also taken sacks at inopportune times. That most likely accounts for the gap between his NFL passer rating (an impressive 92.5) and Total QBR (a below-average 37.9).

  • The same appears true for San Francisco's Alex Smith. The 49ers can certainly live with that 8-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. It's clear Smith has minimized turnovers by taking sacks. The 49ers would be better off if he could turn a few of those sacks into quick-strike plays to beat pressure. Smith had four touchdowns, four interceptions and eight sacks with 97 attempts against five-plus rushers last season. His passer rating has climbed about 20 points and his QBR is up from 41.1 to 47.4 in these situations.

  • St. Louis' Sam Bradford had a 9-4 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions on these throws last season. He is taking sacks on 9.2 percent of these dropbacks, up from 7.3 percent last season. His NFL passer rating against five-plus rushers has fallen from 83.1 last season to 64.5 this season. His QBR in these situations has fallen from 41.1 last season to 22.0 this season.

  • The 49ers infrequently send more than four rushers. Will they come after Ben Roethlisberger more aggressively if Roethlisberger plays on a bad ankle? The Steelers are more likely to send added pressure. They rank second in QBR allowed (17.2) and seventh in NFL passer rating allowed (74.5) when sending five or more rushers.

And now, on to the chart ...

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2011 QBs vs. 5+ Pass-Rushers