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Steelers Analysis

Scramble Drill Could be Steelers Staple in 2024

With two quarterbacks with some of the slowest time to throw in the NFL, the scramble drill could be a staple for the Steelers in 2024.

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Pittsburgh Steelers QB Russell Wilson
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson during OTAs at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on May 31, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — If history is a guide, the Pittsburgh Steelers ought to be the favorites to lead the NFL in time in the pocket in 2024.

Regardless of whether Russell Wilson or Justin Fields is the team’s starting quarterback this year, the rest of the Steelers need to be ready for their passer to hold onto the ball for a potentially very long time.

Last season, Fields had the longest time-to-throw of any NFL quarterback, holding the ball an average of 3.23 seconds before his release, per NFL Next Gen Stats. That’s almost a half-second longer on average than what Kenny Pickett did last year. Wilson wasn’t far behind. His 3.06 second time to throw was tied for the third-longest.

Both quarterbacks are elusive athletes that can use their speed and quickness to extend plays. The other side of that coin is that the team’s wide receivers need to be ready to keep running routes when Wilson or Fields escapes the pocket.

Pittsburgh Steelers Bears QB Justin Fields

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) plays against the Atlanta Falcons during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

At one point during these Steelers OTAs, Fields even caught the team’s staff sleeping, causing the coaches to scurry out of the way as he reversed field to avoid a defender, yards behind the line of scrimmage, before delivering a ball down field on target.

If you’re not used to it, that can be a shock to the system. Van Jefferson had Matthew Stafford (2.68 second time to throw) and Desmond Ridder (2.7 seconds) throwing to him last season. That’s a big adjustment.

“You gotta practice it,” Jefferson said. “I think we do different things out here to practice it. You’ve got two elusive quarterbacks that can extend plays. Both of them have been known for that and they do a great job at it. As receivers, we’ve always got to be on the look out, when they’re scrambling, which way they’re going and getting in the QB’s vision so they can make a play.”

For others, it’s a throwback to their college days. Dez Fitzpatrick played with perhaps the most mobile of all quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson, when he was in college at Louisville, as well as Malik Cunningham, who is now playing wide receiver in the NFL.

“One thing that I always used to say back in college, when we did have those mobile quarterbacks, is you’re never not open,” Fitzpatrick said. “Whenever the initial route ends, and you see that he’s scrambling, that’s an opportunity for a second route. So you’ve gotta stay open.”

RELATED: Steelers Expected to Get ‘Weird’ with Justin Fields in Red Zone

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