Ahead of the Week 8 matchup in the City of Brotherly Love against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers know they’re going to have their hands full on both sides of the football.
They’ll have to be especially on top of their games defensively dealing with NFL MVP candidate Jalen Hurts, who has taken a significant step forward in his development as a quarterback, providing the Eagles with one of the best dual-threat options in the league through six games.
While the Steelers are no stranger to dealing with a dual-threat quarterback that can beat you with his arm and legs, Hurts presents a new challenge for the black and gold, one they’ve not had to deal with so far in Hurts’ career. To defend the budding star, the Steelers will have to treat him much like they have guys like Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Buffalo’s Josh Allen, according to third-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday from inside the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Highsmith stated that the Steelers must be “rush disciplined” against Hurts and will have to do a good job of compressing the pocket against the third-year quarterback in an effort to create pressure, keep him in the pocket and force him to beat them solely with his arm, according to video via 93.7 The Fan’s Jeff Hathhorn.
“QB mobility is definitely a factor, so we just gotta keep him in the pocket. It’s like playing guys like him [Hurts], Lamar [Jackson], Josh Allen, you know, guys who can move like that,” Highsmith stated to reporters, according to video via Hathhorn. “It’s definitely an extra added challenge because you can’t just rush wild and be rushing all over the place because he’ll find escape lanes and things like that.
“We really just have to be able to rush disciplined and compress the pocket against guys like him,” Highsmith added. “…We just have to be really disciplined and we have to communicate. When we’re at our best, it’s when we’re communicating, so I think it’s important for us to just communicate, and have a rush plan that’s disciplined.”
That all sounds good in theory, but when the lights are on and the reps are live, some of that plan can go out the window as defenders search for opportunities to make splash plays. It happens to the best of them, and that’s what makes guys like Hurts so dangerous. They can take advantage of those mistakes from a pass rusher who loses his gap and rush lane integrity and really gash a defense.
It will be important to work as one unit on Sunday against Hurts, sacrificing some opportunities to hunt splash plays individually for the greater good, hoping that working as a unit, maintaining rush discipline and gap integrity can lead to some key pressures and sacks, giving the defense a fighting chance against an offense that has been rather difficult to stop for anyone this season.