Steelers' forecast for Tyreek Hill: 'Fast as lightning'

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt got an advanced scouting report on Tyreek Hill from his brother, fullback Derek Watt, whose Los Angeles Chargers played the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

It was hardly a revelation.

"He said, '10 is fast,'" said Watt, citing Hill's number. "I said, 'I already knew that.'"

Hill has Steelers headquarters buzzing leading up to the Chiefs-Steelers matchup Sunday at Heinz Field, and not just because he's the NFL's blurriest receiver, fresh off a 169-yard, two-touchdown receiving performance along with a 91-yard punt return score.

This year, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Hill has a quarterback who can evoke Uncle Rico with 70-yard heaves. Hill was clocked by ESPN next-gen stats at 23.94 miles per hour on a 2016 kickoff, which means Patrick Mahomes doesn't have to wait long to launch.

The Steelers can preach discipline all week, but defensive coordinator Keith Butler knows it's not that simple.

"You hope to slow that sucker down. He's fast as lightning," Butler said.

At least Butler can draw from experience. The Steelers have contained Hill better than any other team. In the past three matchups, Pittsburgh has held Hill to 92 scrimmage yards on 19 touches. Hill has played 20 teams in his NFL career, and he's broken off a play of 10 or more yards against all but one, Pittsburgh, which mixed zone and man coverage with safety help over the top against Hill.

But that was against an Alex Smith-led offense that relied on West Coast-offense principles. Coach Andy Reid is a disciple of that offense but is one of the NFL's most creative minds, and Mahomes' arm allows Kansas City to open things up.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin isn't assuming past success means anything this week, and he's stressed a clear-cut message to his team.

"The ability to break the game open, the ability to take a short pass and turn it into a long gain is something to be contested," Tomlin said.

Safety Morgan Burnett agrees, but he knows big-armed quarterbacks playing with speedy receivers can force defensive backs to cheat toward the line of scrimmage since plays happen so fast.

That's when the chaos happens. The Steelers will be without Joe Haden because of a hamstring injury, which means second-year corner Cam Sutton is likely to see Hill on his side of the field in his second career start.

"The moment you try to cheat up, you see time after time they drop the ball over your head," Burnett said. "You have to make sure you have the depth."

The fastest Steelers corner is probably Artie Burns, a former junior American record holder in the 60-meter hurdles out of South Florida. And even he knows he can't chase down Hill, who has run unofficial 40s in the mid-4.2s.

So Burns is operating with a two-step plan: Never leave Hill's side, and gang-tackle him.

"We’ve just got to make sure we get the ball down once they catch it," Burns said. "We just create a good game plan, everyone comes prepared and the guys in the room making it happen -- D-line and linebackers getting pressure on the quarterback and the secondary having tight coverage."

Tight end Travis Kelce led the Chiefs with 123 targets last year and remains a top-shelf weapon for Reid. Sammy Watkins is the richest Chiefs playmaker with $30 million in guaranteed money on a contract signed in March.

But other numbers tell the story of Hill's emerging dominance -- his 13 50-yard touchdowns since 2016 are eight more than the next-closest playmaker. Six of those scores came as a receiver, two rushing, four as a punt returner and one as a kick returner.

Tomlin seems to know who's No. 1 on the opposing team's scouting report.

"You just see continued growth as a wide receiver and the way they utilize him in the offense," Tomlin said. "He started early in his career strictly as a kick returner and gadget guy. He got infused and became a core offensive weapon, and I think last week showed he is their chief receiving threat."