The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their second game of the season since middle linebacker Devin Bush went down with at torn ACL. They are also gearing up for their first game against the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson, a lethal running threat who has just had a week to rest up, and whom Bush spent time shadowing last year.
Obviously, that won’t be an option this time around. In fact, the loss of Bush was a big blow to the Steelers’ overall defensive athleticism and speed. And they did give up 24 points in their first game without him, also recording their fewest sacks and their first game of the year without a takeaway.
They did manage to wait out a win against the Tennessee Titans, and they did play six pretty great quarters of football leading up to the shaky second half on Sunday, most of which span of time was played without Bush.
Still, against the NFL’s deadliest dual threat in the game (although Kyler Murray is stating his case as well), how acutely will this unit feel Bush’s absence, a player whom they felt so valuable to what they want to do on defense that they traded up in the first round to get him?
“He was big-term”, third-year strong safety Terrell Edmunds told reporters yesterday about how significant Bush was in their defensive plans against the Ravens last season. “He could be a QB spy. You remember his rookie year he came up with that crazy interception on the tight end. He’s definitely a big part of our defense”.
Still, even without Bush, they are going to have to have somebody come on and keep track of where Jackson is on the field and prevent him from breaking off many runs with his legs. So far this season, he has 346 rushing yards on 50 attempts with two touchdowns. He is averaging a career-low 8.3 attempts per game, but he also just had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season prior to the bye week. So who will spy him this week?
“Robert Spillane, he came in playing great though these last two games. I think they might put Robert in those same situations”, Edmunds said. “Just have to see how you’re going to play out this week and see who they’re going to put at QB spy, because we’ve got to limit Lamar Jackson”.
Considering the number and variety of players that Jackson has made to look foolish with his legs, whether in the open field or otherwise, I would hope that they might have more strategies of keeping him in the pocket than just plugging in a guy making his second start, but we’ll have to see what it all looks like on Sunday.