The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the easiest schedules in the league last season, whether you view it from preseason expectations or how it actually turned out. Conversely, the Steelers have had one of the toughest schedules in 2021, both based on preseason expectations and on how the year has actually played out.
A lot of that just has to do with the quality of quarterback that they have on deck, and up next, they have one of the more exciting young quarterbacks in the league in the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert.
A first-round pick last year, Herbert started 15 games as a rookie, completing 396 of 595 pass attempts for 4,336 yards, with 31 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions—but they went just 6-9 in those games. This season, he has completed 231 of his 353 pass attempts for 2,545 yards, with 19 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
He has his Chargers out to a 5-4 record, coming off of a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings, but the Steelers’ secondary isn’t taking him any lighter after Los Angeles has dropped three of its last four, and Herbert himself is still producing.
“He’s a good guy. He can throw, he can make those big, long balls, and they got a nice offense together”, safety Terrell Edmunds said of the young quarterback. “They got some guys out there that can really make plays, so we’re just gonna have to be on our Ps and Qs. Definitely have to stop the run this week. Last week, I think we gave up 200 yards in the first half, so that’s a big emphasis this week, because we know they’re gonna try to attack us like that. But other than that, just make him make those contested throws, mix and match for him, make him read it after the ball is snapped”.
While he appears to have a good football mind in that head of his, he is still a very young player who hasn’t seen everything that there is to see from a veteran defense, and the Steelers and defensive coordinator Keith Butler can certainly conjure up some looks that he hasn’t seen before.
Of course, it would help him out a lot if he doesn’t have to face T.J. Watt this week, and they are most likely going to be without free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick as well, so Pittsburgh is not exactly going to be at full strength, odds are, by the time they board the plane to head west.
But you only play the games that are on the schedule with the guys that are available to you. And as head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday, “you give us six days to prepare, and I like our chances”.