The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers should follow their own script and attack Josh Allen with coverage.
Explanation: In Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers understood that they were facing a rookie quarterback with great mobility. They responded by consistently showing him eight men in coverage for most of the game, which was a pretty effective strategy. Up next is the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen, another young, mobile quarterback.
The mere fact of Allen’s rushing ability should be a primary concern, which calls for zone drops and spies. Allen has over 400 rushing yards on the season, but more significantly, eight rushing touchdowns. That’s not a fluke. He had eight rushing touchdowns last year as well. Ben Roethlisberger only has three more rushing touchdowns than Allen has in his first 29 games.
If you’re concerned about a quarterback’s ability to take off with the ball but also understand that challenging him with his reads may be a wise approach, then a three-man rush for much of the game should be effective. They have employed this in years past to positive effect as well.
Though he is improving, Allen hasn’t set the world on fire from the pocket. He’s only averaging 6.8 yards per attempt, with 2737 passing yards and 17 touchdowns to eight interceptions, completing under 60 percent of his passes. This is a relatively conservative offense; make them beat you.
The Bills just watched the Steelers do this to the Cardinals, and they’re going to take note of it and gameplan a response. That more than anything is the biggest reason not to rely upon it. If your opponent has a good sense of what you’re going to do, even if it is, in a vacuum, the wisest strategy, it will backfire.
Allen is also a little more advanced in his reads. He’s not a rookie. The growth from 2018 to 2019 in his decision-making and processing speed is clear. The Steelers were fortunate to have made as many open-field tackles against Kyler Murray as they did, and I wouldn’t want to press my luck.