The Steelers have a short week in between their Wednesday clash with Baltimore and this upcoming Monday's matchup against Washington, but Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin appears to already be plenty familiar with his next opponent.
Tomlin spoke with the media on Thursday, less than 24 hours after Pittsburgh's victory over the Ravens, but had plenty of positive things to say about Washington's defense, beginning with the defensive front.
"They’re a talented bunch," Tomlin said. "I’ll start by outlining their defense. Man, it starts up front for them. They have a bunch of high-round draft picks and talented young ones that provide a wave that others ride."
The head coach specifically mentioned Washington's stud rookie Chase Young in his praise, but reiterated multiple times that the Burgundy and Gold's depth is what makes their defense so difficult to play against.
"I can’t say enough about their edge presence with their talented edge rushers, Chase Young being a top draft pick from this draft," Tomlin said. "They have quality Alabama guys [Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne] on the interior that really wreak havoc and are interchangeable. They have quality depth. I can’t say enough about the development of a guy like Tim [Settle], who is a third interior rusher, who is providing pressures and sacks for them as well."
Tomlin's specific mention of Settle is worth pointing out, especially since the third-year pro has been playing the best football of his career over the past month.
Although Settle has played just one-third of the team's defensive snaps, his five sacks are the third-most on the defense this season. He's also totaled a sack in four of the past five games.
The Steelers head coach was also asked specifically about Allen and Payne, Washington's two first-round defensive tackles that hail from the University of Alabama.
"They both can play the A gap, they both can play in the B gap," Tomlin said. "They both are extremely talented and can win 1-on-1. They probably are really comfortable playing together now. That relationship dates back to their college days, and I’m sure that benefits them. They are a challenging group because of their talents and their continuity."
As a unit, Washington's defense has sacked the quarterback 36 times. That's tied for the second-most in the NFL, trailing only -- ironically -- Pittsburgh.
Tomlin attributes Washington's success at bringing down the passer to the team's two bright defensive minds, head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and their ability to mix up defensive schemes and packages.
"They do a great job of mixing zones and mans. They have the turnover production to boot," Tomlin said. "That turnover production is driven by the pressure they apply to the quarterback, no doubt. I think they have 36, 38 sacks or so through 11 ballgames. You feel that consistent pressure when you watch their tape."
For Tomlin and Pittsburgh, it would be easy to overlook Washington. The Steelers are coming off a physical victory over their biggest rival, and a Sunday Night Football matchup with the 8-3 Buffalo Bills looms next Sunday.
Tomlin, though, won't let his squad fall into what could be categorized as a "trap game" for the Steelers, especially after being displeased with his team's performance on Wednesday.
"We are singularly, professionally focused on the week that lies ahead for us," Tomlin said. "It’s a short one for us, a long one for Washington. We just respect that. We don’t seek comfort. We realize Washington doesn’t care about our problems, or they’re glad we have them. We proceed with that understanding."