The long touchdown pass from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase late in the first half of their Sunday Week 3 road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a huge turning point in that contest and it wound up being the game-winning score at that. It was a great play on the Bengals part, and it came at the expense of Steelers cornerback James Pierre. On Thursday, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler was predictably asked several questions about that long touchdown pass and catch on Sunday at Heinz Field right before halftime.
“It was a great throw and catch,” Butler said. “It just wasn’t a great catch. I mean, he threw it out there and, you know, the guy went by us and made the play.”
While Pierre did have okay coverage on Chase on that touchdown pass, it obviously wasn’t good enough. The fact that Pierre got beat deep in that situation with time running down in the first half made the play sting even more. Pierre even giving Chase a chance to beat him deep on Sunday in that particular situation was something that Butler essentially pointed to on Thursday as something the young cornerback needs to learn from and do different moving forward.
“Yeah, he can be aware that, you know, what they’re trying to do and what’s going on in that situation,” Butler said of Pierre. “All of us, we’ve got to do a better job of teaching and a better job of being smart in those situations, What was the down and distance and all that stuff? What did they try to do in the past? And we try to educate our guys to do that, but at the same time, I’m not out there huffing and puffing and trying to cover that guy. And being tired and stuff like that, your mind goes through a lot of things when you’re out there playing. [It’s] a lot different than when you’re on the sideline and in your comfortable stance or whatever. You know, you’re out there dadgum trying to run and backpedal and all that. Trying to hustle and stuff like that you’re tired and sometimes your thought process is not sometimes what you want it to be.”
So, was that touchdown play that Pierre gave up on Sunday just part his learning curve as a young and inexperienced NFL player?
“There’s a lot of learning curve for all our young guys,” Butler said on Thursday. “Our guys, there’s several of them that’s only been in the league a year or two. And here’s the thing; I think as a player in the league, you make the mistake, don’t make it again. If you don’t make it again, you last longer than the National Football League, you have a longer career in the National Football League. So, our guys, you know, they’re gonna make mistakes every now and then, but they should not repeat that mistake. Should not repeat it. And hopefully he [Pierre] won’t. In order for us to be a good defense, all of our guys need to do that. And we’ve got some veteran guys who understand that concept; you can’t make the same mistake twice. You get beat once on it, learn from it and don’t let it happen again.”
Butler does have a point and Pierre also needs to make sure he knows the game situation better next time when he finds himself in a similar situation. Getting beat deep on a pass from your own 34-yard line with 43 seconds left in the half just can’t happen. On top of everything else, the Bengals ran that same play back in Week 1 for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings with the only difference being that it was run on the other side of the formation.
On Sunday at Lambeau Field, the Steelers defense will play the Green Bay Packers, and they are led by veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers. You can bet that Rodgers will throw deep quite a few times on Sunday and probably even target Pierre a few times over his head whenever he’s on the field as well.
The Steelers have already given up three deep pass completions that the ball flew more than 30 yards in the air on. Two of those resulted in touchdowns as well. They almost allowed another one in Week 1 to the Buffalo Bills, but thankfully quarterback Josh Allen overthrew wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on that particular play.
If the Steelers want to have any shot at beating the Packers on Sunday, their defense can’t give up big plays and especially none that result in touchdowns.