When it comes to the pass rush, Mike Tomlin likes to say that he’d rather have the say ‘whoa’ than ‘sic ‘em’. That’s generally true, but when working against a mobile quarterback, you sometimes need that more deliberate approach to avoid getting gashed.
That is the balance the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to access today against Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals. Murray, the first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, is actually the Cardinals’ leading rusher this season with over 400 yards and four touchdowns, and they frequently carry out designed runs for him.
Javon Hargrave, who notched a key sack of another mobile quarterback, Baker Mayfield, last week, was asked about if it’s difficult to have to slow things down when you’re going after the passer, during a sit-down interview last week with Missi Matthews for the team’s website.
“We’re a real aggressive unit, so we’ve just got to play him smarter, because he can use his feet a lot more”, the fourth-year defensive tackle said. “He can get out of a lot of situations. So we’ve got to be more smart and not try to take too many chances as we can do with other quarterbacks, because he’s real dangerous. Real dangerous dual-threat quarterback”.
While the Steelers have faced a number of mobile quarterback this season, no less than Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson, arguably the two best in the game right now—short of a healthy Cam Newton—they understand that Murray can be a handful as well, even if he also puts himself in harm’s way at times.
T.J. Watt also cautioned earlier in the week that just having played other mobile quarterbacks doesn’t mean it was fitting preparation for facing this one in particular. “Every quarterback is different”, he said, and reminded that “they’re watching film on us, too”.
“But they’ve watched the film too”, he said, “so they know where the escape lanes could potentially be. But a lot of these quarterbacks are improvisors, so they’re gonna find holes even if you think you don’t have any in your defense”.
What kind of adventure will they have on their hands today? This is obviously the first time the Steelers have seen Murray, but the rookie may not have seen a better defense this year, either, as least when this unit is playing at its best and Watt, Hargrave, Bud Dupree, and Cameron Heyward are giving the offensive line nightmares.