Six defensive backs would put more speed on the field for the Steelers and allow them to use one of those players to spy Pryor if they wanted.
But free safety Ryan Clark said the key to containing Pryor lies elsewhere, as much as he is a proponent of the quarter package.
“I think it’s more the athleticism of your front that you worry about with Pryor,” Clark said. “You have to have guys that can chase him down, and players who play with high motors and continue to get after the passer.”
Few Steelers play with a higher motor than defensive end Cameron Heyward, and that is not the only reason why he will be a key player Sunday at Oakland.
No Steeler knows better Pryor and his tendencies better than Heyward.
The two played AAU basketball together growing up and Heyward helped recruit Pryor to Ohio State. They also practiced against one another countless time in Columbus, though hitting Pryor was not allowed.
“There were times I got close and I got reprimanded for it,” Heyward said. “This is finally my opportunity.”
Heyward would love nothing more to register his first sack of the season against his good friend. And Pryor is well aware that his former Ohio State and Pittsburgh JOTS teammate has been harassing opposing quarterbacks on a consistent basis this season.
Heyward, who moved into the starting lineup two weeks ago, leads the Steelers with 17 quarterback pressures.
Of course getting to Pryor and getting him on the ground are two different things. The 6-4, 233-pounder is big for a running quarterback, and his long, effortless strides can make it seem like he isn’t moving as fast as he is.
“He may not look that fast,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said, “but we all know he is.”
Heyward recalled a game at Ohio State when Pryor, wearing a knee brace, escaped the pocket. An Illinois defender appeared to have an angle on Pryor, but he underestimated the latter’s speed and Pryor blew past him.
“You’ve got to take a really good angle, because if you don’t he’s going to turn that corner on you,” Heyward said. “No trying to gauge (his speed). You’ve got to be running full speed to catch him.”
That is not the only part of Pryor’s game that will test the Steelers.
He is evolving as a passer, and is constantly working on the mechanics that have held him back at times.
“His passing has gotten a lot better,” Heyward said. “He’s throwing a great deep ball and he’s really seeing the pocket well. When it breaks down, he’s able to run or buy time for his receivers. We’ve really got to keep him in the pocket, get to him quick and wrap up.”