With every NFL team now owning and operating an in-house media outlet, each team has full control of the messages sent to the public. On Steelers.com, a Q&A between one team employee and another (the other employee happens to be coach Mike Tomlin) has a clear message regarding the team’s plan for handling Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, if he chooses to run the football.
Here’s the question from Bob Labriola: “Can you explain the rules as they apply to quarterbacks in terms of when they are protected players, when they are considered runners, and then the difference in how the defense is allowed to tackle them based on each situation?”
Here’s the full answer from Tomlin: “It’s about passing plays. When they’re in the pocket as passers, or would-be or potential passers, they’re protected both before and after the throw. On running plays, they are not protected. So some of the read option-type things, some of the RPO-type things where they could keep or not keep the ball they are runners much like the running backs and they’re not protected. It’s less about what they do and more about the construct of the offensive play. On passing plays you have to treat them with kid gloves; on running plays, particularly when they’re following out play-fakes and some of those things, you do not.”
That wasn’t some impromptu press-conference exchange or radio/TV interview. It was a question deliberately asked, deliberately answered, deliberately edited if need be to convey the right message, and ultimately deliberately published.
The timing is hardly coincidental; the interview was posted on Sunday morning, the day of Pittsburgh’s second attempt ever to slow down the reigning NFL MVP. At a time when too many defenders become mesmerized when quarterbacks run, reluctant to embrace the opportunity to treat them like running backs, the Steelers don’t coach or play that way.
Three weeks ago, defensive coordinator Keith Butler specifically told his players to hit Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz if/when he runs. Last week, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill ran, and Steelers linebacker Vince Williams hit Tannehill — hard.
And so the game within the game today will feature whether Pittsburgh’s defense can catch Jackson when Jackson runs and, if so, what will happen next. It’s clear that the kid gloves are off; the question becomes whether officials will afford Jackson extra protection as a runner, especially if he flops.
Mike Tomlin talks about the rules for hitting quarterbacks originally appeared on Pro Football Talk