It’s probably not often that you hear a defensive coordinator say that he is looking forward to his team’s upcoming opponent trying the same things that their previous opponent just burned them running. That is the approach the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Keith Butler is taking, however, when it comes to dealing with quarterback scrambles.
Though certainly not the only weapon, the numerous scrambles by Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on Sunday night really hurt Pittsburgh and led to multiple scoring drives. Up next are the Cincinnati Bengals, and their young quarterback, Joe Burrow, is also capable of moving around if the scramble lane is there. Butler was asked if he expects to see the Bengals utilize them like Herbert did.
“Yeah. I hope they do. It’d be good for us if they do”, he told reporters yesterday, via transcript. “He was a good running quarterback. He caught us a couple of times in man-to-man coverage—more than a couple of times. They got us a little bit. Some stuff we could’ve changed and did a little bit better in terms of maybe spying him a little bit, but we felt like the four-man rush was the best thing at the time”.
The Steelers were down multiple members of their starting backfield in Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety and Joe Haden at cornerback, rookie Tre Norwood and second-year James Pierre starting in their places, respectively. Guys like Ahkello Witherspoon and Karl Joseph were logging time, both dressing for just the second time this year. And they were down T.J. Watt at outside linebacker, too.
“He did a good job of escaping. There were times he saw usin certain coverages and stuff like that and he would take off. He didn’t wait on anything”, Butler said, similar to what defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said right after the game. “It looked like it was almost a quarterback draw but it wasn’t. It was a read by him”.
“Hindsight, like I said, is always 20/20”, he went on. “Going back to the game and thinking about what happened and what we did, you give up 41 points, sure. ‘What could I have done differently?’. It’d be stupid for me to sit here and say that I wouldn’t have done it differently. 41 points is too many points. Way too many”.
The fact that the Steelers should be getting all of the above-mentioned players back should help them run things differently in the hopes of not being exploited by quarterback scrambles, whether they are reads or otherwise. But it’s not like they haven’t been able to limit mobile quarterbacks in the past. Lamar Jackson hasn’t really exploited them in multiple games now.