You don’t get to be one of the best linebackers in the NFL by accident, and when the Steelers tried a screen pass early in Monday night’s preseason game, Kerrigan was all over it.
The reason was young Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who gave away the play inadvertently. Kerrigan spotted it and pounced.
Here are the two main players in this play – Gilbert on the left, and Kerrigan on the right. They’re about to do battle.
The rest of the offensive line plows forward to create the pocket, but Gilbert drops back. That’s not unusual in and of itself, but Kerrigan also notices Gilbert keeping a low stance – perhaps so the quarterback can throw the ball over his head.
Kerrigan is also keeping his eye on the running back. This is the bigger giveaway. The back should be charging forward for a handoff or to help pass protect for Ben Roethlisberger. Instead, he’s moving to the side. That’s a big red flag for Kerrigan, who’s looking straight at it.
Put it all together, and it’s time to anticipate the pass. All the smarts in the world wouldn’t matter here if he couldn’t get to the ball, but Kerrigan is one of the most freakishly athletic players on the team – he dunked the ball over the goal posts once the play ended.
As Kerrigan put it after the game, “After that, it’s just instinct and reaction.” He joked that he hopes he didn’t waste a pick-six in the preseason.