Mike Tomlin Explains How Defense Will Limit Saints’ Taysom Hill

It’s not often a player who has touched the ball just 52 times this season draws so much of the opposition’s attention. But most plays aren’t like the New Orleans Saints’ Taysom Hill. A chess piece who can – and certainly has – lined up all over the field, the Pittsburgh Steelers will need to devise a plan in order to contain him.

Appearing on his weekly The Mike Tomlin Show Saturday, Mike Tomlin explained the defense is returning a player just in time to help slow Hill down – safety Damontae Kazee.

“Guys like Taysom Hill, they get in these multiple tight end sets,” Tomlin told host Bob Pompeani via the team’s YouTube channel. “He can play quarterback, he can play tight end. They can attack you vertically, they can attack you on the perimeter. It creates a real good opportunity for three-safety defenses. To have those 205 to 210 pound guys that can run, that can play in space, that can blitz, that can tackle. And so there’s a nice space for a guy like him. A big nickel package, a three-safety package.”

Tomlin is unusually honest in these types of interviews, confirming they were going to blitz Buffalo Bills’ QB Josh Allen a day before they rushed him at a 62% clip so it sure sounds like Kazee will be used to try and erase Hill. Planning for a guy like Hill is difficult. Most of the time, defenses respond to the offensive personnel they’re facing. Against 11 personnel, three-receiver sets, defenses will respond with nickel. Against heavier groupings, they’ll stay in base.

But Hill functions as a little bit of everything in their offense. A quarterback (nine pass attempts), a running back (40 carries), and receiver, and he has a passing, rushing, and receiving touchdown this season. He’s one of just three such players this season, joining Jets’ QB Zach Wilson (who caught his touchdown against the Steelers) and 49ers’ RB Christian McCaffrey. The point is there’s no easy answer for how to play Hill. Having someone like Kazee gives the Steelers a versatile piece physical and aggressive enough to play the run while offering better coverage ability in the pass game. In a more limited sense, Kazee will be the Steelers’ version of Hill. And he figures to see the field when Hill does.

“We explored some [three safety packages] in team development and a week like this is a prime opportunity for a guy like him to have an impact.”

Excluding a kneeldown, Pittsburgh used its “big nickel” package six times in the preseason. Earlier today, we did a video breaking down Kazee’s role and impact and how it creates more flexibility for the entire Steelers’ defense.

Of course, Hill isn’t the only threat on the Saints’ offense. There’s RB Alvin Kamara and rookie WR Chris Olave. But Hill is the most unique one and Pittsburgh is getting their counterattack ready just in time.

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