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Steelers are ready for cat-and-mouse chess match with Lamar Jackson

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens

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In his last game before facing the Browns last Sunday night, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was blitzed repeatedly by Miami defensive backs. Against Cleveland, the blitzes didn’t happen as frequently. On Sunday, what will the Steelers do against Jackson?

That’s for coach Mike Tomlin to know and Jackson, the Ravens, and everyone else to eventually find out.

“It’s not specifically what it is they did, it simply may have been what it is they did relative to what Baltimore expected them to do,” Tomlin explained regarding the Dolphins’ and Browns’ different approaches in an interview with Steelers.com. “And oftentimes that’s the beauty of game planning, whether it’s defensive game planning or offensive game planning or special teams game planning. It’s not always about the uniqueness of what it is that you do, it’s about the people that you play and their level of anticipation and their level of preparedness for it.

“Miami threw something at them that wasn’t on video, and they had success, and maybe Baltimore anticipated those teams that followed would copycat it, and so they were prepared for a bunch of zero-coverage, and Cleveland chose to stay within their personality. And then there was a lack of preparedness there. And so that’s the cat-and-mouse game that is the schematic strategy of our game at this level. Oftentimes I tell our guys, ‘It’s chess, not checkers.’ And that’s a vivid example of that discussion.”

Whatever the Steelers will do against Jackson, they prepared for it by going against receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, who played the scout-team role of the 2019 NFL MVP this week in practice.

“You lose a lot in arm talent and accuracy and so forth, but it’s worth it, because the quarterback mobility component is one of the things that make them a unique challenge,” Tomlin said.

Based on Jackson’s four-interception performance from Week 12, it may be appropriate to have a scout-team quarterback with reduced arm talent and accuracy. That said, chances are the Steelers will see a sharper and more effective Jackson on Sunday.