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2020 South Side Questions: Can Pass Rush Keep The Pressure On Lamar Jackson?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Can the Steelers keep the pressure up on Lamar Jackson?

The Steelers so far this season, by far, have been the best pass-rushing team in the NFL in terms of consistently applying pressure on the quarterback and in some way or another influencing his throws. Lamar Jackson just so happens to have among the worst quarterback ratings in the league when under pressure since the start of the 2019 season.

That certainly seems like something I would want to try to exploit if I’m the Steelers. And this doesn’t necessarily preclude them from using a spy on Jackson, who frequently runs with the ball—and often by design. He already has 50 rushing attempts, which is tied for the second-most in the league, behind only Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals (who has played one more game).

While Murray runs pretty frequently, unlike the Ravens, the Cardinals are not a run-first offense. Murray has 253 pass attempts so far this year, compared to Baltimore’s league-low 165. But when they do throw the ball, the Steelers need to make Jackson uncomfortable.

They were able to do that the last (and so far only) time they faced him, last season, and he threw three interceptions in that game and took five sacks. Both were career highs, and the Steelers will be looking to duplicate those numbers in their second meeting against the reigning league MVP.

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