Everyone knows that Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson wears number 8. After all, he is the reigning NFL MVP. But Jackson has another number when it comes to Pittsburgh – and that’s the number 7.
In two games against the Steelers, Jackson has turned the ball over 7 times, 3 in 2019 and 4 earlier this season. In his other 23 starts the last two years, Jackson has committed just 11 turnovers.
That might suggest – as the saying goes - that the Steelers and Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler have Jackson’s number.
“No, we don’t have his number,” Butler contends, “Daggumit, the kid is a great football player, MVP last year. I don’t think anybody has his number.”
But just 3-and-a-half weeks ago, Jackson threw a pair of interceptions and lost two fumbles in the Steelers’ 28-24 win at Baltimore.
“We were fortunate to get out of that that game,” Butler remembers, “we gave up over 450 yards. Our offense did a good job of scoring points at the end and then we stopped him when we had to.”
With Tyson Alualu out, backup Isaiah Buggs made two straight stops on Jackson inside the 10-yard line and after Baltimore got the ball back, Minkah Fitzpatrick knocked down a Jackson pass in the end zone to end the game.
Since then, after beating the Colts, the Ravens have lost their last two games – to the Patriots and Titans. So maybe it’s turning into more than the Steelers.
Jackson recently joined Rich Eisen on NBC’s Peacock. “We go against defenses calling out our plays, stuff like that, they know what we’re doing.” Jackson says opponents will call out things like “run and watch out for this watch out for that” and will apparently often be right.
TJ Watt says that’s really nothing special; just good old-fashioned hard work. “It’s the NFL, we study film, it’s my full-time job.
Every week you know a certain amount of plays, what’s coming, based on certain clues that you get. It’s no difference who you’re playing.”
But Cam Heyward knows that despite their relative success against Jackson he is different than most QBs so they must remain disciplined and keep contain. Then they can have some fun.
“Just gotta put him in situations where he’s uncomfortable,” Heyward says, “whether it’s pressure, getting him behind the sticks (where) he’s gotta take a couple more chances than needed.”
Do the Steelers have Lamar Jackson’s number? Maybe they do.
But the number they have Thursday night is 11 – as in 11-0.