The Steelers have a message for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz on Sunday: Run at your own risk.
Wentz has been running the ball more often of late, with seven attempts in Week Four against the 49ers and nine in Week Three against Cincinnati. As the Steelers prepare to face Wentz, Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler had a clear instruction to his players.
“If Wentz takes off he’s told his players you remember he’s a runner not a quarterback,” said Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Media, regarding Butler. “That means you hit him and you hit him hard enough to dissuade him from doing it more.”
That sounds familiar. It sounds a little like something someone said the 49ers should consider doing to a certain quarterback who had run through and around the Titans in the AFC Championship as defensive players tippy-toed around the prospect of subjecting Mahomes to the same kind of physicality that running backs routinely face.
In an era where the NFL protects its quarterbacks (especially the stars) at all costs, quarterbacks who become runners forfeit those protections. So if you hit quarterbacks like running backs and they feel it like running backs they may think twice before running again.
It may not mesh with the league’s fairly recent (in the grand scheme of things) obsession with player safety, but it definitely meshes with the reality that football remains a physical game premised in part on establishing dominance and intimidation of an opponent. As anyone who ever has been hit hard in any athletic setting knows, that first big hit always makes you think twice about risking a second one.