The New Orleans Saints do-all Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill will provide a different dimension for the Steelers’ defense on Sunday.
Hill is officially designated as a tight end for the Saints, but he’s also capable of playing quarterback and running back. He plays on special teams, as well.
Mike Tomlin made sure to mention Hill’s impact within the Saints’ offense during his press conference on Tuesday.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Hill and the challenges that he brings, his versatility,” Tomlin said. “He plays in the game at a variety of positions. Quarterback among them. They got some schematics that are really challenging when he’s playing at quarterback. But he’s also capable as a tight end or H-back. And they can do some more traditional things, some play-action passing, some misdirection passing, some run game. So, we got to put a thoughtful and intentional plan together regarding his issue in an effort to minimize his impact on the game.”
Compared to 2021 and 2020, Hill hasn’t been utilized at quarterback often this year, completing just 7 of 9 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
For his career, Hill has completed 64.6% of his passes for 2,216 yards with nine touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 86.7.
“He’s a unique guy,” Steelers outside linebacker Malik Reed said. “He provides a lot of things that they can do on offense. They line him up in a lot of different spots. When you have a guy like that, Swiss Army knife, he adds a lot of things that you have to prepare for as a defense. We’re definitely going to know where he’s at every time he’s on the field.”
Despite being labeled as a tight end, Hill has just three receptions for 16 yards and a touchdown this year.
He’s done most of his damage on the ground, rushing for 343 yards on 40 carries and five touchdowns, averaging a whopping 8.6 yards per carry. Hill had a standouts performance against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5, as he racked up 112 yards rushing on nine carries (12.4 average) and three touchdowns. He also had a touchdown reception against Seattle, a game in which the Saints won 39-32.
“He’s a tough guy. He runs the ball well, and I think that’s what provides value in each place that he’s at whether it’s tight end, quarterback, running back (and) on special teams,” Reed said on what Hill does best. “It’s just the knack that he has. And the intensity that he brings to the field, I think that’s what makes him special in his role.”
Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith hasn’t played against someone like Hill since high school.
“He’s unique. I never faced a guy like that. I think high school, maybe. Everybody plays everything in high school,” Highsmith said. “He’s that unique in what he does. Not only is he a quarterback, he’s a tight end, (personal protector) on punt, receiver. He does everything. We know that when he’s in the game, we have to lock in because something’s up. He’s a unique talented guy. He’s definitely someone we got to get after whenever he’s in the game because when he runs, he runs downhill hard. So we just got to bring it.”
It will come down to awareness this week for the Steelers’ defense in preparing for the Hill sub-packages.
“It’s just awareness, really,” Reed said. “As a football player that’s something you have to take to the field every time no matter who’s in the game. You got to be aware of what they can do as an offense and the players that they have in their offense. It’s really just being aware of who’s on the field, who’s at quarterback, and things like that. And taking that awareness into the game. In the practice first and getting out everything that you can in practice and taking that into the game.”
With the Steelers having a bonus practice on Monday after the bye, Reed said they focused on themselves rather than preparing for where Hill will line up.
“We focused a lot on ourselves on Monday,” he said. “Looking at things that we can get better at and do well in. I think we’re diving in a lot today.”
The Steelers are expected to remove All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt from injured reserve this week, which will definitely be beneficial in stopping Hill.
“To have a guy back like that, he just adds so much to our defense. He’s Defensive Player of the Year for a reason,” Highsmith said. “He brings so much energy and so much splash. He makes those plays, just adds juice to the whole team. I’m super excited to have him back.”