Going wild: The Steelers utilized the ‘Wildcat’ formation on Monday night in their 27-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but just because they used it once, doesn’t mean you will see it every game.
Coach Mike Tomlin said they went to it to help an offense that was without starting tight end Vance McDonald, without fullback Roosevelt Nix and going with a young quarterback in Mason Rudolph who was making just his second NFL start.
Tomlin admits it is a gimmick that NFL teams know how to defend, but the Steelers did surprise the Bengals by running it, and Jaylen Samuels pulled it off without a problem, something he did in college at N.C. State as well.
“I acknowledge the Wildcat is somewhat gimmicky,” said Tomlin. “At the same time all of us in the National Football League are prepared for it week in and week out. We don’t get a lot of physical reps when we don’t anticipate it. Because it is on video, Baltimore will be prepared for it. I imagine Baltimore will have a certain level of preparedness for it because of the nature and functions of their offense.
“We did what we had to do to win that game given circumstances and players available to us. We’ll shape a plan that puts us in a position to win this one with the current mix of players. I acknowledge that it could be very different from what you saw Monday night. We’re just in a fragile state right now. We need to do whatever it is we need to do to move the ball and win football games.”
Unique challenge: The Steelers defense will face a unique challenge on Sunday trying to contain Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is a double threat with his arm and his legs. Jackson has 87 completions for 1,110 yards and 10 touchdowns through four games, as well as rushing 36 times for 238 yards and a touchdown.
“They present some challenges for us, challenges we haven’t seen,” said Tomlin. “We’ve seen some of Lamar Jackson, but we haven’t seen the totality of it in the ways a lot of people have. Looking at the tape he has experienced the natural maturation process that you expect from guys from Year 1 to Year 2. He is doing an awesome job of administering the offense. The offense is really challenging because it stresses you in a lot of ways. He has the type of speed, agility that really stresses a defense on the perimeter.
“We have to do a great job of constricting and containing what they are capable of doing on the perimeter. But you can’t be so loose on the interior that downhill runners like Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards don’t gore you. When you have physical, downhill runners like those two, and a quarterback who is capable of getting on the perimeter, you are stressed in a lot of ways defensively.”
Attention to detail: His numbers might not jump out on paper, 17 tackles and a pass defense, but Steven Nelson is quietly getting the job done.
Nelson, who signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, has been a stabling force at right cornerback and a huge asset to the secondary.
“He is doing great,” said Tomlin. “I like his attention to detail. I like his professionalism. From time to time we put him in awkward circumstances because of the nature of how we play. I just like everything he is doing thus far. I look forward to it continuing to be a positive aspect of our play.”