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Steelers Analysis

Ranking the Top Five QBs on Steelers 2024 Schedule

Steelers Now’s Derrick Bell dives into the Steelers schedule and ranks the Top 5 quarterbacks they will face this year.

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NFL Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes Steelers
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 16: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) late in the second quarter of an AFC wild card playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan 16, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

If you look at the Vegas line for Steelers wins in 2024, the over/under is set at 8.5, less than the number they accumulated last season. With Mike Tomlin as the head coach, Pittsburgh has consistently been in the mix for the postseason down to the wire. With the AFC loaded with talent, particularly at the quarterback position, things aren’t going to get much easier on them this fall. They’ll have to slow down some of the more talented passers in today’s game to make postseason noise. So, let’s break down the five best signal callers that the Steelers will face next season.

Steelers Cowboys Dak Prescott Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) carries the ball during an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

5. Dak Prescott (Cowboys)

Another disappointing playoff exit for Dallas dimmed the light on another highly productive offensive campaign from Dak Prescott, where he led the entire league in touchdown tosses. Even beyond the traditional counting stats, he was extremely efficient, finishing second in passing EPA/play and success rate. Under Mike McCarthy, Dallas has leaned into more quick game concepts where Prescott’s pre-snap processing shines through. His willingness to throw into tight windows when his receivers can’t create ample separation is a trademark of his, although it occasionally leads to some turnovers.

Tomlin’s crew hasn’t seen Prescott in quite some time, as you have to go back to his rookie season in 2016 when he missed their matchup in 2020. If you recall, this was the infamous Roethlisberger fake-spike game, only for the Steelers to allow the Cowboys offense to march the field in the waning second immediately after. Prescott’s performance that day was similar to his performance that entire season in which he won the Rookie of the Year award. Pittsburgh’s schedule is relatively backloaded, but this week’s five matchups will be a good barometer for their defense.

AFC North Steelers Bengals Joe Burrow

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, Nov. 20, 2022. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

4. Joe Burrow (Bengals)

2023 was essentially a lost season for Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback as he dealt with a calf injury over the summer prior to a season-ending wrist injury. Even in the ten games that he started, he never quite looked right and averaged a career-low 6.3 yards per attempt. Burrow arm strength isn’t what we typically associate with the best players at this position, but he makes it work with an outstanding blend of anticipation, timing and precise accuracy. He’s most comfortable in the gun and is at his best when in throwback 3×1 or 2×2 formations, pushing the ball down the field to his playmakers but has shown more of a willingness to check the ball down recently as well.

Burrow missed both of the Steelers-Bengals matchups last season due to injury and owns a career 3-2 record against his division rival since being drafted first overall in 2020. He’s had some surgical moments as a passer where their spread passing attack has really given Pittsburgh’s defense issues on the back end, but he’s also turned the ball over a good amount, leading to mixed success overall. With him on the bench last year, play-caller Zac Taylor implemented more under-center, play-action work in his absence, and it’ll be interesting to see if that is something they can convince Burrow to get on board with in hopes of making his life easier. Pittsburgh won’t see this offense until late in the season, typically when the Bengals find their stride offensively.

Steelers Playoff

www.allproreels.com — Washington Football Team vs. Los Angeles Chargers from FedEx Field, Landover, MD, September 12 2021 (All-Pro Reels Photography)

3. Justin Herbert (Chargers)

Unfortunately, Justin Herbert’s surroundings last season were pretty abysmal and when combined with the fact that he missed the final month of the season, his numbers weren’t all that gaudy. However, his arm is as good as anyone’s in the entire sport, with the ability to layer throws to all levels of the field. Having a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder certainly helps but it’s his ability to navigate pressure with quick twitch pocket maneuvers which make him extremely unique, especially for a player of his stature. If there is one knock on Herbert, it’s that he’s not as aggressive of a passer as someone like Josh Allen for example. Part of that is a testament to his processing and his ability to remain poised, play on time and get the ball where it needs to go based on what the defense presents to him.

Still just 26 years old, Pittsburgh has only faced Herbert once, but in that matchup, Herbert torched the Steeler’s defense, which was without safety Minkah Fitzpatrick that night. He threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns in a high-scoring affair that came down to the wire. Los Angeles is in a state of transition after jettisoning Keenan Allen of the Chicago, leaving Herbert with a bunch of unproven commodities at the receiver position. The hiring of Jim Harbaugh suggests that this will likely be a run-heavy team by design, which could take some of the load off Herbert’s shoulders in the long run. Even without a ton of established talent around him on offense, his skill set alone is enough to take over a game.

Steelers Ravens AFC North

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 8, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

2. Lamar Jackson (Ravens)

Following a tumultuous offseason amidst contract discussions, Lamar Jackson finished the 2023 campaign by winning his second MVP award. With new offensive coordinator Todd Monken in the fold, we got to see a different but dangerous version of Jackson as a pocket passer while keeping plenty of the previous regime’s rushing concepts intact. Jackson’s a one-man band offensively, highly efficient in between the numbers, and can throw off platforms from different arm angles. That’s before getting to the chaos that he can create as a designed rusher or as a scrambler, with rare movement skills that allow him to evade tacklers in the open field.

The only NFL team that’s had repeatable success against the talented dual-threat has been the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last year’s loss was wonky, given how many receiver drops occurred that afternoon, but Tomlin’s defenses have held him in check, limiting him to 6.6 yards per attempt through the air and keeping him out of the end zone entirely as a runner. He’s missed most of the games between these two teams due to injuries or rest, limiting the sample size. After reaching the AFC championship game last season, Baltimore is the favorite to come away with the AFC North crown. If Pittsburgh wants to regain control of the division, they’ll have to continue heating up Jackson.

Steelers Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes Andy Reid

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) warms up as head coach Andy Reid looks on before the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

1. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)

Until proven otherwise, Mahomes sits atop the NFL world all by himself. After bursting onto the NFL scene as a scrambling magic that thrived out of structure, he’s now settled in as a confident disruptor that’s willing to pepper throws underneath with opposing defenses keyed in on taking away the long ball. The most demoralizing aspect of Mahomes game is how difficult he has to get on the ground, whether that’s been just slightly fast enough to scramble for first downs or his uncanny sack avoidance. We’re talking about an all-time great and as of right now, he’s the final boss for opposing teams to defeat in their pursuit of a Lombardi trophy.

For as much success as the Steelers have had defending Jackson, the opposite is the case for Mahomes. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns to just one interception, averaging over 10 yards per attempt with Kansas City winning all three of the matchups since he was drafted. During the offseason, they retooled their receiver room and while Travis Kelce didn’t look quite as dominant during the regular season in 2023, the duo proved that they still have another gear to tap into late in the season. If Pittsburgh wants to get back to competing for Super Bowls, it feels certain that they’ll have to knock off Mahomes arm and Andy Reid’s creative mind in order to accomplish that. This one might require a Christmas miracle.

 

 

 

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