This time around, Keith Butler hopes the Pittsburgh Steelers have a better plan to stop Denver Broncos’ tight end Noah Fant. Butler praised Fant as much as anyone during his Thursday meeting with the media, identifying him as the Broncos’ top pass game weapons.
“You could get him on a linebackers pretty easily,” Butler told reporters via a team transcript. “Not that our linebackers can’t take it, they can, but he’s probably the best receiver they got right now because of injuries and stuff like that. They still got capable receivers, they’re not empty in there but the 87 is their best player. Their best receiver.”
Butler did clarify he considers Denver’s running backs to be their best players and that Fant is currently their best receiver.
That praise is well-warranted. Last season, Fant damaged the Steelers for four catches, 57 yards, and one touchdown despite playing with a backup QB for most of the game after starter Drew Lock left with an injury. Fant had two downfield catches on corner/seven routes, something we covered in post-game film rooms.
This year, Fant is tied for the team lead in receptions with 18 and touchdowns with two though his average has fallen to just 8.7 yards per catch. Still, he’s a young, athletic tight end capable of winning downfield. Devin Bush and Joe Schobert will largely be responsible for covering him this week. So far, both have seen mixed results in coverage. Schobert, to his credit, is coming off a strong performance against the Packers.
Fant may be their top weapon, but he isn’t their only own. Courtland Sutton returns after tearing his ACL against the Steelers last season and is averaging a healthy 14.3 yards per catch. Tim Patrick is an under-the-radar receiver with great hands, catching 15 of his 19 targets in 2021. Even their #2 tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, is a big body at 6’5″, 260 pounds who has found the end zone once this season on just nine catches. Denver’s group isn’t high-flying but they’re a solid, efficient bunch. In other words, the opposite of the Steelers’ offense.
Look for a full scouting report on the Broncos’ offense and defense from Josh Carney and Tom Mead tomorrow morning.