While the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost four games this season, all of them prior to Thursday’s failure against the Cleveland Browns all came against some of the best teams in the league, none of whom currently have a record worse than 8-2: the New England Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Baltimore Ravens.
One common theme that runs through a number of their losses have been experiencing untimely susceptibility toward quarterback mobility, whether that has been allowing a quarterback to scramble for a positive play in a bad spot or escaping pressure to make a play with his arm.
The latter was the case, early and often, against Baker Mayfield for the defense on Thursday. And while the Cincinnati Bengals are 0-10, they understand that rookie quarterback Ryan Finley also poses a mobility threat, which has been a problem this season.
“He’s a mobile guy, a little bit more mobile, so we’ll look at the rush lanes a little bit more”, outside linebacker T.J. Watt said of Finley yesterday. “Obviously we let up some quarterback mobility last week, so he’ll probably be watching that tape as well. Just trying to be smart and knowing that he’s watching the same film that we’re watching from last week and try to be disciplined in our rush lanes”.
Head coach Mike Tomlin also observed the role of extending plays in the Browns offense being able to take advantage of miscues by the defense. “As plays got extended, I thought that the tide always tilted in the favor of the Browns”, he said. “We didn’t do enough on extended plays, in rush or in coverage. Baker Mayfield got out a lot. He escaped to our right, his left some, and created some negativity for us”.
In terms of how to fix it, both Watt and Tomlin offered solutions. For Tomlin, it was about being “better in terms of tight coverage in those circumstances”, while the pass-rusher was more focused on his role. “A good amount of it is just communication and letting guys know when you’re going inside, just being more orchestrated with our games”, he said.
“Just understanding what quarterbacks are trying to do. I think a good thing that Baker did is that he wasn’t flushing one way all the time”, Watt continued. “He was flushing to our left, but he was flushing to the middle, through the outsides. It gave us a fit, and I think just each week, you have to know what type of flush you’re gonna see from the quarterback”.
It would be hard to imagine, let alone stomach, the Steelers losing to a 0-10 Bengals team because their rookie fourth-round quarterback was beating them with his mobility, but we frankly can’t entirely dismiss that as a possibility right now.