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.
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Regret Punt, Will Talk to Ben Roethlisberger About Future
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answers questions from the media following his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of the Browns in the playoffs. Tomlin explained why he decided to punt on a 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter while trailing by multiple scores. He also touched on the timeline for when he will talk to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about his future with the team.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Says He Doesn’t Regret ‘Browns Is the Browns’ Comment
PITTSBURGH — It was repeated so often in the five days between when JuJu Smith-Schuster said the phrase on Wednesday to Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field, that it nearly became the No. 1 talking point coming into the game.
“The Browns is the Browns.” Before the game, after the game and probably during the game, many of the Browns made it clear that they had taken exception to Smith-Schuster’s characterization of the team.
The Browns IS THE BROWNS!! 🌚
— Jedrick Wills Jr.®️++💕 (@JWills73) January 11, 2021
Smith-Schuster said after the game that he had no regrets about what he said.
“You know, I don’t regret what I said,” Smith-Schuster said. “I said, ‘The Browns is the Browns.’ They came out and they played a hell of a game. You know, there’s been games where we feel we lose them and today wasn’t our night and hopefully the same Browns will show up next week against the same opponent and go out and do the same thing they did tonight and have a hell of a game.”