Steelers News

Kenny Pickett Sack A ‘Christmas Gift’ For Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen Says After Generating Initial Pressure

The Baltimore Ravens showed a double A-gap blitz on the fifth and final play of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ opening possession during Sunday’s game. Patrick Queen was lined up in the (offensive) left side gap and Roquan Smith was on the right.

That was clear enough on the snap. If only the communication had been clear enough along the offensive line. Left guard Kevin Dotson took the blame for it; the result was Queen peppering the A gap and nearly sacking quarterback Kenny Pickett, the rookie able to spin out of his grasp.

The play wasn’t over there, unfortunately. Smith dropped instead of blitzing, but once his fellow linebacker put Pickett under duress, he broke coverage and charged into the backfield. He caught up to the quarterback before he could regain his bearings and ripped him down for a sack.

Queen told reporters yesterday that he told Smith after that play, “’It’s a free Christmas gift. Don’t expect any more though’.” That sounds worse in hindsight, of course, considering the fact that Pickett suffered a concussion on the play and his status for next week’s game is unclear as a result.

But they didn’t know that at the time. Even the Steelers didn’t know, because they put him back out on the field for another drive before evidently reevaluating him and determining that he was displaying concussion symptoms sufficient enough to diagnose him.

The Steelers used to love blitzing their linebackers up the middle, though they don’t seem to do it nearly as often—in fact, in obvious passing situations they often only have one on the field. They ran a Fire X blitz where the two linebackers would cross face, which Alex Kozora broke down several years ago.

I’m sure James Farrior and Larry Foote shared a number of ‘gifts’ over the years, with one finishing off a sack that the other started by generating the initial pressure. But usually it comes from both blitzing, rather than one breaking off coverage.

The Ravens see Queen, their former first-round draft pick, playing at a higher level since adding Smith via trade from the Chicago Bears. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey in particular was sure to note it yesterday.

“Those guys are some monsters. That duo is looking really deadly,” he told reporters, saying that Smith’s presence has been big for Queen and has allowed him to take his game to another level. “I kind of didn’t think that could happen, but it can. So, it’s been great playing with those guys.”

The Steelers could certainly use a set of linebackers who raise each other’s level of play. They don’t have it right now with the trio of Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane. A lot of Steelers fans wanted Smith here, of course. But will he even be in Baltimore next season?

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