Tomlin on Cam, tipped balls, hitting QBs

Q. Ben Roethlisberger has been very effective getting the ball out of his hand quickly and using short passes to move the ball and convert third downs. As a result, pass rushers are realizing they can't get to him and are stopping and getting their hands up, and there have been some instances of passes batted into the air. Can the offensive linemen do anything to get those hands down?
A. They can, but that is a minor problem in the big scheme of things. I would much rather have third-and-medium problems like you just mentioned rather than third-and-long problems. Third-and-long problems are catastrophic problems where it's difficult to protect your quarterback when you're trying to run routes beyond the line to gain. We've worked extremely hard this year to not be behind the chains, to being in very manageable third downs, and that's what allows us to take the approach you mentioned. (Getting passes tipped) is a small, minor inconvenience relative to not being on schedule.

Q. So you're not worried when those batted balls are fluttering around the line of scrimmage maybe to be intercepted?
A. Not at all. Just because it's third-and-4 doesn't mean we necessarily have to throw the ball short. And if they're not rushing, then that means we're not getting pressured, which means we're capable of working beyond the sticks, and we do that very often. We threw a deep ball last week to Chase Claypool on third-and-medium, and we got a pass interference penalty and a big chunk of real estate. That's as big a part of our repertoire as short passes. You just have to be thoughtfully non-rhythmic. You always have to be that, but being on schedule is not a negative thing.

Q. Your team led the NFL with 38 takeaways in 2019, and 18 of those 38 were fumble recoveries. What goes into a defense's ability to take the ball away in that manner?
A. A bunch of guys who are ball aware usually led by one guy who kind of provides an example for others to follow and then it catches on like wild-fire. A year ago, T.J. Watt was getting that ball out with extreme regularity, and I think it caught on like wild-fire. If you look at what's going on with the Ravens, Marlon Humphrey is that guy for them this year, and so through six games, they have knocked 13 balls out, and they lead the league. We're focused on it. We always are. Our agenda does not change in that area, but we just haven't been as fortunate or as opportunistic in that area to this point this year. We are ahead of schedule, I would imagine, in getting interceptions than we were a year ago. I don't care by what means we get the ball or get off the field, as long as we're doing so.

Q. Can you explain the rules as they apply to quarterbacks in terms of when they are protected players, when they are considered runners, and then the difference in how the defense is allowed to tackle them based on each situation?
A. It's about passing plays. When they're in the pocket as passers, or would-be or potential passers, they're protected both before and after the throw. On running plays, they are not protected. So some of the read option-type things, some of the RPO-type things where they could keep or not keep the ball they are runners much like the running backs and they're not protected. It's less about what they do and more about the construct of the offensive play. On passing plays you have to treat them with kid gloves; on running plays, particularly when they're following out play-fakes and some of those things, you do not.

Q. Through six games, your defense has 26 sacks and 64 hits on the quarterback. Some might view hits on the quarterback as a category representing "almost a sack but too late." Is there value in missing a sack but still hitting the quarterback legally?
A. Certainly. Football is a game of attrition, has been and always will be regardless of regulations or rules. We have a desire to play within the rules, and those hits you mentioned are within the rules. We work extremely hard to make sure that our hits on the quarterback, sacks, pressures are all of the legal variety. But we acknowledge that attrition is an element of play. We desire to win by attrition, and that includes wearing the quarterback down mentally and physically over the course of the football game.

Q. Wearing the quarterback down. How does that manifest itself?
A. It's different for each quarterback. We don't necessarily have the answer to that, but we realize that there is an effect. Some are affected more than others. Some have strengths in certain areas more than others, intangible strengths, mental toughness, etc. The bottom line is it always helps our cause. I've never seen an instance where hitting the quarterback legally hurts your cause.

Q. What have you been getting from Cam Sutton so far this season?
A. He's big-time versatile. He plays a lot on possession downs. All downs aren't weighted the same, and this is a guy who runs out there just about every third down, just about every two-minute situation. The downs he plays are significant ones. We ask him to defend a variety of people. He's a utility specialist, and the strength of his game is in versatility, and we appreciate and respect his contributions. Last week he was able to step in for Mike Hilton and do some other things, and you had an opportunity to see the versatility in his game. He was a run-down nickel for us last week, much like Mike Hilton usually is, and put some tackling on display. He really has developed his game into a well-rounded game, and we appreciate his contributions and we're excited about the variety of things he can provide us week to week.

Q. Earlier this season, before the game against Houston, you talked about the kind of runner Deshaun Watson is and said, "This guy is a capable runner … his running ability is more than escapability, capable of turning a broken play into a 50-yard gain if you're running in man coverage with your back to him. He is a legitimate athlete who happens to play the quarterback position." What kind of runner is Lamar Jackson?
A. He's more of a scrambler than Deshaun Watson, if you're looking for comparables. When he breaks out, more times than not he's tucking and running. Deshaun will break out and move laterally, parallel to the line of scrimmage in an effort to still deliver the ball down the field. This guy has 50 carries on the season. He is their leading rusher, not only in yards but in attempts. So there is a distinct difference there between him and people like Deshaun Watson, who has escapability. No question this guy has escapability, but it goes beyond escapability in terms of his intentions. And not only him, but what they do schematically. You're talking about designed runs with this guy, much more than Deshaun. The vast majority of Deshaun's runs are born out of aborted passing plays or scramble plays. This guy has some of those, but there are a lot of designed runs within the functions of their offense as well.

Q. Are there defined ways in which the Ravens use tight ends Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle? Is one more of a receiver? As receivers, how are they different?
A. Without question. Andrews is a vertical passing guy. He is the receiving guy, and not only within the tight end position, but I would consider him the No. 1 receiver for their football team. Often times, and it's not talked about, but sometimes the No. 1 receiver doesn't happen to play receiver. He can play tight end, and I think that's the case here. In the significant moments when Jackson's in trouble, the rapport the quarterback has with Andrews is significant. Boyle is a point-of-attack blocker. It's reflected in their running game, because he's often at the point of attack. In the route-tree when he's participating in the passing game, his participation isn't nearly as vertical as Andrews'.

Q. For Steelers fans, is Andrews comparable to Heath Miller?
A. No. Andrews is much more of a vertical threat in the passing game, and he's not a security blanket in the way that Heath was. He's a No. 1 in the eyes of their offense, and I'm sure in the eyes of their quarterback.

Q. What style of running game do the Ravens employ?
A. In terms of zone-scheme or gap-scheme, they employ both. The designed quarterback runs create an added component that very few can mimic and makes them unique. And that's why they're always one of the top running teams in the league, but strictly from a running back standpoint, they're a gap-scheme group.

Q. Is Patrick Queen the Ravens version of Devin Bush?
A. I would imagine it is headed in that direction, but at this point he is not. He is not an all-situations player for them. He comes off the field some, but I would imagine that if you check back in a number of weeks that could be the case that he is an all-situations player for them. In the very same way, if you rewind 12 months ago, Devin Bush was not an all-situations player for us. Even though that was our vision and our intention, you have to proceed with the growth and development of young people, particularly with a young guy like Queen who didn't have an offseason.

Q. There is always talk of mutual respect during Ravens week, but is there a foundation of dislike as well?
A. I think there can be respect and dislike. Respect is something that's earned. Dislike, not always. So they can coexist together.

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