Fresh off their first loss of the 2020 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers head into a prime-time matchup against a fellow AFC division leader in the Buffalo Bills.
After allowing Alex Smith to engineer a comeback, the Steelers defense knows it will have its hands full with Bills QB Josh Allen.
“Very versatile quarterback,” said cornerback Cam Sutton, via the team’s official website. “A leader. He is definitely the catalyst on that side of the ball. Everything starts with him and runs through him.
“He has done a great job of taking that step. He is making a lot of checks and calls at the line. They have given him a lot more freedom, moving guys around, putting himself and the offense in good situations to stay on schedule, make plays out there on the field. That is just a testament to him. I’m sure he is a hard-working person, a humble guy.
“He is playing good football right now. We just have to be on our game and be ready.”
Allen ranks top 5 in completion percentage (4th at 69.9), pass + rush yard (4th, 3,725), pass + rush TDs (T-4th, 32) and 20-plus yard passes (T-3rd, 48) this season among 32 qualified QBs (7th in passer rating: 105.9).
Allen is one of three QBs with 3,700-plus combined pass and rush yards and 30-plus combined pass and rush TD this season (Others: Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes).
The Bills QB is on pace for 4,966 combined pass and rush yards, 42 combined pass and rush TD, and a 105.9 passer rating in 2020. Only 6 QBs have had 4,900-plus yards, 42-plus TDs, and a 100-plus passer rating in a season: Mahomes (2018 MVP), Peyton Manning (2013 MVP), Drew Brees (2011, 2013), Aaron Rodgers (2011 MVP), Tom Brady (2007 MVP, 2011), and Dan Marino (1984 MVP).
The league leaders in sacks this season with 44, the Steelers defense knows it must pummel Allen if it’s to slow down the Bills offense.
“Overall, we have to get to him first and foremost,” said linebacker Alex Highsmith. “He is dangerous, so we know we have to keep him in the pocket. That is what makes him such a great quarterback, is because not only can he throw the ball, but he can run the ball as well.
“I think our key to stopping him on defense is to get after him and rush the passer and keep him in the pocket. If we are out of our rush lanes or whatever he might be able to get out. It’s about keeping him in the pocket and being aggressive in that aspect.”
Allen’s drastic improvement in 2020 has come as he’s diced up defenses not with his legs but rather his howitzer of an arm. Yes, the Bills’ QB remains dangerous with his legs, but he can now also win games through the air.
Allen generated two games this season with 375-plus passing yards, 3-plus pass TDs and an 80-plus completion percentage. No other QB has even one such game this season.
If you’re stuck in 2019, thinking Allen is a run-only QB, please remove your head from the sand.
Allen has six games this season with 300-plus passing yards, including two games with 400-plus pass yards (he had zero 300-yard passing games in 2018 or 2019). Only Mahomes (8) and Deshaun Watson (7) have more 300-plus yard games this season.
After experiencing their first failure this season, the Steelers have no time to lick their wounds. A stampeding Bills squad, which is playing better on both sides of the ball lately, is on deck.
Despite taking their first L, there is no lack of confidence in Pittsburgh.
Joining NFL Network’s Good Morning Football Friday, Cameron Heyward had a message for everyone jumping off the bandwagon:
“Good for them,” he said. “I think everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and they can all make their decisions. As we climb the mountain, there is not going to be a lot of room for you on the trip.”
The trip continues Sunday night in Buffalo.
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