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Heitritter: Steelers have the most mobile QB room in franchise history

Quarterback mobility has become a tantalizing trait that NFL teams have looked to incorporate into their offense in recent seasons. Names like Pittsburgh’s Steve Young, Randall Cunningham and Kordell “Slash” Stewart were ahead of their time, presenting their legs and arms as a threat to beat opposing defenses on the ground and in the air. Michael Vick revolutionized the position with his ability to attack defenses with his legs, starting the trend where a mobile quarterback is more sought after than your traditional pocket passer.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen teams prioritize quarterback mobility as more and more franchise quarterbacks display this dual-threat skill set. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is the top dog as a modern-day Vick in the league, while others like Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Washington’s Jayden Daniels are all legitimate threats with their legs. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a mobile quarterback capable of striking fear into the hearts of opposing defenses since Slash, but heading into 2024, they have several players at the position who possess that skill set.

In fact, 2024 will be Pittsburgh’s most mobile quarterback room in franchise history. It is headlined by Justin Fields, who has demonstrated his dual-threat ability since entering the league as the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Fields has 2,220 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns in 40 career games (38 starts) with the Chicago Bears, including an impressive 2022. He has run the rock 160 times for 1,143 yards (7.1 YPC ) and eight rushing touchdowns that season, ranking second in single-season quarterback gained rushing yards all-time. He has a career-high 67 yards as a runner and has demonstrated the skills to make plays outside the pocket as a passer as well as gash opposing defenses when keeping the ball moving.

Fields will most likely back up Russell Wilson to start the 2024 season, and Wilson is a fairly mobile quarterback in his own right. Wilson hasn’t played as much football in recent seasons as he did earlier in his career in Seattle, but he still has the athleticism and mobility to create outside of structure, tuck the ball in, and create with his legs. Wilson totaled 341 rushing yards and three touchdowns last season, the most for the veteran since 2020. He has five seasons with over 500 rushing yards under his belt. And even though he will be 35 years old to start the 2024 season, he still has a mobility base to create with his legs that is equal to or greater than that of recent Steelers QBs Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph, Mitch Trubisky and Ben Roethlisberger at twilight of his years. .

Third baseman Kyle Allen is nothing special when it comes to mobility, but UDFA John Rhys Plumlee is a different story. The former UCF and Ole Miss quarterback was a multi-sport athlete in college, playing both football and baseball, demonstrating his athleticism on the field as well as the football field. Plumlee racked up 2,556 rushing yards and 28 rushing scores for the Rebels and Golden Knights, displaying his 4.54 speed as a dual-threat quarterback who made plays as a scrambler as well as on runs. designed races. He has the speed to challenge defenders in pursuit as well as the toughness to make contact as a runner, making him a legitimate threat for opposing defenses to account for when under center.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has repeatedly emphasized the value of quarterback mobility. He said this in the spring of 2022 during NFL owners meetings about the importance of having a mobile quarterback in today’s game:

“Quarterback mobility is a more important part of the game than it has ever been in today’s game,” Tomlin said via the team’s YouTube channel. “In fact, in 2021, I think the yards per carry in the NFL were the most ever. It’s not because teams are moving the ball more efficiently. That’s because they use the quarterback as a runner. And now you’re playing 11-on-11 football. So do the math. Guys need to overcome blocks and make tackles in today’s game to be effective in stopping the run.

That sounds like a statement from a coach wanting a mobile passer who can contribute in the running game, and he now has the personnel in his quarterback room to integrate him into his offense. Pickett, Trubisky and Rudolph, to a lesser extent, had some mobility to create outside of structure, but the combination of Fields, Wilson and Plumlee is far superior in this area.

For a team that wants its identity to be anchored in its running game, the turnover at quarterback this spring has definitely added another element to that. We’ll see how the room develops throughout the season, but we should expect Pittsburgh’s mobile quarterbacks to make more of an impact in the running department than they have in recent memory.