Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler has seen enough of Bills quarterback Josh Allen by now to recognize the gravity of the challenge and the response that'll be required on Sunday in Buffalo.
"Reminds me of a young Ben Roethlisberger, except he runs more than Ben did," Butler observed regarding Allen following practice today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "When he runs, we gotta treat him like a running back if we can."
Allen, 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, became the first player in NFL history with at least 4,500 passing yards (4,544), 35 touchdown passes (37) and five rushing touchdowns (eight) in a single season last season, his third as Buffalo's starter.
He rushed for 421 yards last season and has 1,562 career yards and 25 career touchdowns on the ground.
"I hope he does try to finish the runs," Butler said. "We'll treat him like a running back. He wants to be treated like a running back, we'll do that, too.
"He's a big, physical guy. That's an important position, and if you're gonna run the ball, that ball attracts a lot of attention in the National Football League. And there's usually a price to pay, so we'll see what happens."
Butler was less specific regarding how the Steelers intend to deal with Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
"We'll have a gameplan for him," Butler offered. "There's different things we're gonna do against him, and against the quarterback, also."
Diggs led the NFL in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535) in 2020, his first season in Buffalo following five in Minnesota.
The two were lethal in the second half of what became a 26-15 Bills victory over the Steelers last Dec. 13 in Buffalo.
Diggs made seven of his 10 receptions and amassed 92 of his 130 receiving yards in the final two quarters, including a 19-yard touchdown reception, as the Bills pulled away after leading 9-7 at the break.
"There were some things we did that were pretty good," Butler recalled. "We got some turnovers (an interception and a fumble recovery in the first 30 minutes), that was probably the most successful thing we did. We got a couple turnovers and we didn't get anything out of them.
"We gotta get something out of them. We gotta have good field position. We gotta create good field position. We gotta keep a pretty good possession time. If we can do that we'll be OK."
Sunday's meeting will be the third in three seasons between the Bills and the Steelers.
That's enough familiarity for Butler to have a firm grasp on what the Steelers will be up against.
"Y'all ever heard of the drill 7-on-7? It's pretty much what we're going to be in," he said. "They're gonna run the ball, too. The quarterback will run some. They'll run some draws. They'll get in situations where they want to run the ball, formations where they want to run the ball. It's gonna be probably about 20-percent run and 80-percent pass, that's OK with me. In the past, we've been a pretty good four-man rush team. We gotta see what happens this time.
"We led the league the last four years in sacks. We gotta do the same against these guys. We gotta be able to get after (Allen) a little bit. We gotta be able to stop some of the things that they wanna do with mainly a passing offense. What a lot of people do is they run screens, they run draws just to break things up a little bit. We gotta be good at defending that, too."