The last time the Steelers saw Tim Tebow, he ended their season in stunning fashion with an 80-yard touchdown catch-and-run to Demaryious Thomas that gave Denver a 29-23 overtime victory in a wild-card playoff game. It happened on the first play from scrimmage and was the fastest ending to an overtime playoff game in NFL history, requiring just 11 seconds.
But that was then, and Tebow’s appearance with the Jets on Sunday at Heinz Field is now. No longer a starting quarterback, Tebow was acquired by the Jets in an offseason trade to back up starter Mark Sanchez and to serve as the signal-caller in the Wildcat offense. So, preparing for Tebow will be a little different this time around, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday in a conference call with media covering the Jets.
“There are a million different things between being the starting quarterback for an outfit and a ‘package guy,’ like he is right now,” Tomlin said. “What we did in that game was to address the issue of a guy taking a snap from center on every play. Our approach is probably going to be a little bit different in regards to how we deal with him this time around.”
That doesn’t mean the Steelers don’t respect Tebow. How can they not after he torched them last season for 316 passing yards and two TDs plus rushing 10 times for 50 yards and another TD? Never mind that he completed less than 50 percent (10 for 21). He hit the big plays, especially to Thomas, who caught four balls for 204 yards.
In Tebow’s Jets debut, he did not throw a pass on eight snaps in the Wildcat offense and carried five times for a mere 11 yards. But Tomlin knows the Jets didn’t begin to show their full Wildcat arsenal after getting out to a 41-7 lead on Buffalo.
“I know that we better be preared for more than what I saw him do in that game on Sunday,” Tomlin said of Tebow. “That wasn’t very different from what was done in Miami [by current Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano] with the likes of Pat White, Rodney Brown or others. Obviously, Tebow is a capable passer. That’s the element of it that we need to be prepared for.”
The Jets like to talk about the work required to prepared for the Wildcat by opposing defenses, but Tomlin said teams see enough of it during the course of the season that “it’s not as big an undertaking” as in the past. But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to stop.