Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made sure everyone knew Tuesday during his first regular season press conference of the year that Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker is not only mobile, but a perfect candidate to run the read-option Sunday in the season opener at Heinz Field.
“He’s got great mobility, he’s got escapability, hes good at movement in the pocket,” Tomlin said about Locker. “He’s also good in terms of some of the designed misdirections that’s associated with the passing game, bootlegs and otherwise.
“But he can create as the pocket deteriorates. He can buy time and he can also do it with his legs. He’s proven that already in the preseason and of course last year it was a significant part of some of the things they did, particularly on third down.
“You got to be ready for designed quarterback runs and things of that nature. I’d imagine that they’ve worked some on the read-option stuff that’s in vogue in today’s NFL, because he definitely has the skill set to do so.”
The Steelers aren’t likely to face the read option much in 2013, but it won’t be easy to face it right out of the chute. Last season, the Steelers defense did a good job against the read-option for the most part in the game against the Washington Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III, but it should be noted that they were aided by several dropped passes in that game.
Tomlin made his thoughts known on the scheme during a breakfast media session for AFC coaches at the NFL owners’ meetings back in March.
“I always take a skeptical approach,” he said. “We’ll see if guys are committed to getting their guys hit, because when you run the read-option, obviously they are runners and there’s something that’s associated with that.”
You can bet that Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will be getting that point across to their players all week. The more they are able to cleanly hit a running Locker, the less likely they are to face it as the game progresses.
The Steelers were burned for a few big runs by quarterbacks during the preseason, so Locker’s ability to use his legs simply can’t be ignored heading into Sunday.