Michael Pierce Is Not Just a Big Run Stuffer

Sep 12, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, U SA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Nick Vigil (59) celebrates the sack with defensive tackle Michael Pierce (58) during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Let me start by saying I love big mean nose tackles. I don’t know why. It’s not the fashionable position to like, but there it is. I was sad to see Linval Joseph leave but then happy with the arrival of Michael Pierce from the Baltimore Ravens. Except he didn’t arrive. Not for a whole year after Covid happened and Pierce opted out for the 2020 season. Several injuries later, and the 2020 version of the Minnesota Vikings defense was one we would all like to forget.

The interior of the D-Line was particularly bad. I still have nightmares about that game on Christmas Day. It seems I’m not the only one as General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer plotted to spend almost all of the available money for Free Agents on the defensive side of the ball. Leading to last season’s starters on the interior of the D-Line Shamer Stephen and Jaleel Johnson no longer being around.

Through video clips released on social media, it was clear Pierce was coming into this season hungry to come back ready. To show he was a player worth waiting for and worth the contract he was given in 2020. With the big-money signing of free agency Dalvin Tomlinson, his partner in the middle of that D-Line, the run defense woes of last season are supposed to be over.

Week 1

Giving up 147 rushing yards in week 1 wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. The problem being Joe Mixon didn’t need to run through the 2 big boys in the middle, as he could run wide and around the D-Line with all too much ease.

They also took advantage of a 3rd quarter series when Pierce was having a rest and was rotated out for Armon Watts. That’s not to say it was a perfect outing for Pierce. There were occasions he could have done better. For a man who had a year out, returning to play in the searing heat in Cincinnati. I thought he held up pretty well, and more importantly, should get even better with more time back on the field. The presence of Anthony Barr behind him will be invaluable, and the edges need to be defended better. No one man can stop a team’s rushing attack.

Not Just a Run-Stuffer

There was talk in the offseason of Michael Pierce not just being a run stuffer, started by the man himself. History of weight problems in Baltimore. He was said to have been up around 400 lbs at one point, but that looks well behind him. Now said to be at around 340 lbs. The work he’s put in during his time away from football paid off on Sunday. Recording his first-ever 2 sack game and an 83.3 pass-rush grade by PFF, which was considerably higher than his 66.5 run defense grade. What also should be emphasized is when these sacks occurred. A 1st down sack that started the ball rolling for the big 4th down stop, that swung the momentum of the game in the 3rd quarter. That followed with a 3rd down sack on the opening drive of overtime.

It was a quiet game for the pass-rush “specialist,” apart from one sack from the returning Danielle Hunter. It was a quiet game from the Vikings’ pass-rushers. Nick Vigil and Harrison Smith rounded out the sack number to 5. Having missed a year with a neck injury. Hopefully, Hunter will be back up to speed soon and provide more of the menace we saw pre-injury. Seeing the emergence of Pierce as a genuine threat to the Quarterback, play out on the field on Sunday. It was one of the few saving graces of an otherwise miserable affair.