PITTSBURGH — Will Lamar Jackson play against the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend? The more time that goes by, the more unlikely that notion feels about the superstar Ravens quarterback who suffered a knee injury against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. But replacing Jackson is no ordinary quarterback, it is one of the NFL’s standout backup quarterbacks, Tyler Huntley.
Huntley has experience in the Steelers and Ravens rivalry. He played against them last year in the final week of the season, where Pittsburgh ground out a close win to earn a playoff berth. But don’t mistake the young Huntley for being an inexperienced player that is still getting his feet wet. Mike Tomlin is expecting an improved, cerebral version of the Utah product when he steps into Acrisure Stadium on Sunday.
“That’s a guy that had an opportunity to get an extended amount of play last year,” Tomlin said of Huntley. “When you don’t have a long playing resume and you go into an offseason, it’s somewhat mystical, the errors in your game that you need to work on. I would imagine last year’s experience really narrowed his focus as he went into the offseason. He was able to identify tangible areas of his game that he needed to improve, and I’m sure that they were as well.”
There is a level of quarterback mobility that always is in the Ravens’ system. From Trace McSorely to Huntley to Jackson, the Steelers have faced multiple Ravens quarterbacks that can run the scheme in a similar manner to Jackson. No one quite reaches Jackson’s dynamic ability. As Alex Highsmith and the edge rushers get ready to defend against Huntley, they are expecting another dynamic, tough-to-guard quarterback that can mimic many of the ways that Jackson plays.
“We’ve done a good job of the defensive side of the ball creating havoc and turnovers,” Highsmith said. “Lamar is such a unique talent. If he plays, we have to get after him. Tyler Huntley is great as well. He runs the same offense that they do, and they’re both very dangerous. We have to get after both, whoever plays. These guys will be tough.”
Chris Wormley expects to see John Harbaugh hold his cards close to his chest on who will play. However, knowing the scheme that the Ravens play and the type of quarterbacks that both Huntley and Jackson can be, Wormley is expecting a challenge no matter who is Baltimore’s signal-caller on Sunday. Still, he expects to see a lot of different concepts and looks.
“Tyler is similar and has similar attributes to Lamar, but I keep saying he’s a different breed of quarterback when you look at his film,” Wormley said. “Lamar is so dynamic, it’s hard to replicate that. And Tyler can be a really effective rhythm passer. That’s just a few things, but they’re really different players. Tyler is talented and we’re going to have to really focus to stop him.”
Pittsburgh will have to be ready for the gameplan that Greg Roman builds around Huntley. Wormley knows the ins and outs of the offense, but Huntley will give the Steelers a potentially new look with another year of experience under his belt with his a full week of preparation to go with it.