When it comes to facing Josh Allen on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in somewhat familiar territory. They have already faced mobile quarterbacks this season in Joe Burrow, Jacoby Brissett, and Zach Wilson, so at least they don’t have to adjust to playing a pure pocket passer when they take on the Buffalo Bills.
But Allen still presents his own unique challenge, because he is not simply mobile, but also a physical runner. He’s not the kind of quarterback who’s going to slide at every opportunity once he’s past the line of scrimmage. And that fearlessness surrounding contact extents into the pocket as well.
“It gives you more opportunities”, Steelers outside linebacker Malik Reed told reporters on Thursday via the team’s YouTube when asked about facing a quarterback who doesn’t shy away from contact. “He’s a very competitive guy. That’s the type of people you want to play against, because they’re gonna give you their best and we want to be at our best come Sunday”.
Reed, who has two quarterback hits on the season (and a couple of holding penalties drawn) but no sacks, is hoping to get his first of the season against Allen, who has taken eight sacks so far this year through four games. The Miami Dolphins got him four times in Week 3, the Bills’ only loss.
While he already has 1,227 passing yards with 10 touchdowns, Allen has already picked up 183 yards on the ground as well, and has added two touchdowns to boot. He has his team ranked fifth in scoring coming into this game, averaging 28.5 points per week, although they have been held to 23 or under in the past two.
But even when they are not at their best for 60 minutes, Allen has them as finishers. He helped orchestrate a 17-point second-half comeback against the Baltimore Ravens last week, with one passing touchdown and one rushing.
“He brings a different dynamic to the game. Being able to throw the ball and run it as well as they do with their quarterback, I feel like that’s the nature of the NFL today”, Reed said. “To be a pretty good quarterback, unless you’re a Tom Brady or something like that, you’ve got to be able to be mobile and to make calls at the line and be able to really move around”.
That’s something the Steelers’ defense has struggled to handle so far, truth be told. It was most evident last week, when they were able to get after the quarterback, but Wilson’s mobility and elusiveness spared them of several negative plays. He escaped at least two sacks from Alex Highsmith alone.
Allen can certainly pose the same sort of issues, but he’s also more willing to stand in the pocket and try to make something happen. Reed and his teammates have to maximize their opportunities to finish when they get in the backfield, because they’ll get burned badly if they don’t.