Updated: Dec 12, 2020
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
The Steelers will face an elite quarterback on Sunday night in Buffalo Bills' quarterback Josh Allen. He is arguably the best quarterback the Steelers will see all season, at least in the regular season. Allen is coming off a performance against the San Francisco 49ers where he completed 32 of 40 passes (80%) for 375 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 139.1. Allen led Buffalo to a 34-24 win over San Francisco, and the Bills are leading the AFC East with a record of 9-3.
On the season, Allen has completed 69.9% of his passes for 3,403 yards and has a touchdown-interception ratio of 26-8, along with a quarterback rating of 105.9. Allen is also dynamic as a runner, rushing for 322 yards on 87 carries (3.7 average) and six touchdowns. Allen ranks fifth in the league this year in passing yards, tied for sixth in touchdown passes, fourth in completion percentage and seventh in quarterback rating.
"Very versatile quarterback," Cam Sutton said of Allen. "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."
The key to stopping Allen for the Steelers' defense is to hit him and make sure they are disciplined in their rush lanes and keep him in the pocket.
"Overall, we have to get to him first and foremost," Alex Highsmith said about Allen. "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."
Steelers' defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Allen reminds him of a young Ben Roethlisberger. A comparison that's often made between the two gunslingers.
"He’s good at what he does. He’s a big guy. He reminds me a lot of Ben (Roethlisberger) when he was young in terms of running the football," Butler said. "Sometimes he runs to escape. Sometimes he’s got called plays for him in terms of draws, quarterback draws and stuff like that. Sometimes he runs sweeps. We have to be ready for him doing that at all times. He is an effective runner for them. Like I said, most defenses you account for eight gaps. The quarterback creates a ninth gap in terms of trying to defend the line up front. We have to be in position sometimes where we are going to have to have an extra guy come in and play the run. Hopefully, we can be right. That’s going to happen."
The Steelers faced a dual-threat quarterback in Lamar Jackson in Week 8, as well as Robert Griffin III in Week 12, who's obviously not in the same category as Jackson and Allen, but he was still able to rip off a 39-yard run against the Steelers. What the Ravens do with Jackson and Griffin is similar to what Buffalo does with Allen but it's not on the same level.
"There are definitely some that they have," Highsmith said of the similarities to what Allen does in the run game as Jackson. "It's not as much like a Lamar Jackson. There are definitely some. We have a good plan in place for him. It's going to start with getting to him and rushing the passer. We have a good plan in place, we just have to execute it."
Mike Tomlin during his weekly Tuesday press conference had high praise for Allen and said he will be a big-time challenge for the Steelers on Sunday night.
"Quarterback mobility is where you start. Josh Allen is a big-time challenge," Tomlin said. "He’s a big-time challenge because of his throwing abilities. He’s a big-time challenge because of his abilities to extend plays and to scramble. They have some designed quarterback runs utilizing his talents. They keep you off-balance and really nail down your menu in terms of ways that you attack them. They have awesome balance and supplements to the running game. He has over 300 rushing yards on the season. That’s something to be reckoned with."