PITTSBURGH — The Steelers entered their game against Denver on Sunday with one singular focus on defense: to get to and rattle young Broncos quarterback Drew Lock.
That goal was accomplished fairly early on. Midway through the first quarter, Lock slipped away from rushing Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, only to be blindsided by fellow pass rush maven Bud Dupree.
Dupree knocked the ball out, Mike Hilton recovered, and Lock never did. The Broncos young quarterback left the game and did not return after the play.
— NFL France (@NFLFrance) September 20, 2020
Knocking the quarterback out of the game in the first quarter might seem ideal, but it actually required the Steelers to rethink their game plan a bit. Broncos backup Jeff Driskel came into the game and the veteran backup was more poised, less prone to panic and at the end of the day more successful than his younger cohort.
“We played against Driskel in his days in Cincinnati,” Tomlin said. “More than anything, it’s tough to anticipate their alternative plans, the adjustments that they make, their package of plays that maybe highlight his skill set. It threw us off rhythm. It’s something to adjust to but I’m sure the loss of Drew Lock also threw them off rhythm. So we’re not going to make excuses for our performance. It was really a good job by them adjusting and adapting to circumstances and working to put themselves in the position to win.”
Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds said that the team went to a bit more of a vanilla game plan when facing Driskel while waiting to see what the Broncos would do after they were forced to change.
“Once they switched quarterbacks, everything switched up because we didn’t know what we were going to get out of the second quarterback,” Edmunds said. “So we had to go back to the basics.”
For the rest of the first half, it didn’t seem to matter. The Steelers sacked Driskel four more times before the end of the half. But in the second half, the Broncos’ veteran seemed to settle in. T.J. Watt recorded his second solo sack of the game on the Broncos’ first third-quarter possession, but from then until the end of the game, he was able to operate relatively unmolested.
Driskel led the Broncos on two second-half touchdown drives and was threatening on what would have been a game-winning third, the Steelers needed to change things up.
So they dialed up a blitzing Edmunds, far from the Steelers’ most common pass rush and it fooled the Broncos. Edmunds came unblocked, sacking Driskel on a crucial fourth down to seal the win for the Steelers.