Russell Wilson is taking his share of heat in Seattle with the Seahawks sitting at 5-5 following back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.
The Pittsburgh Steelers don't buy the criticism.
The sudden emergence of backup rookie running back Thomas Rawls aside, the Steelers know they must stop Wilson on Sunday if they are going to beat the Seahawks at Seattle, where Pittsburgh has not won since 1984.
"When things break down in the pocket, he knows how to scramble, to run around with the ball," cornerback Antwan Blake said. "Once he starts scrambling, guys try to get open. It's definitely hard to defend with a quarterback like that."
Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones agrees.
"Some quarterbacks, you want to make them get out of the pocket," Jones said. "With (Wilson), you want him to stay in the pocket because he'll beat you with his legs as much as his arm."
The Steelers haven't played the Seahawks since 2011, the year before Wilson was drafted in the third round. Playing at home, Pittsburgh won 24-0 with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback for Seattle, but coach Mike Tomlin knows his defense will have a tougher task this time.
"He presents many challenges: his arms, his legs, his eyes and his mind," Tomlin said of Wilson. "The things that he is able to do really stresses the defense. His ability to extend plays, his willingness and ability to escape yet keep his eyes downfield, which allows zone defenses to dissolve or break down, and his ability to move the chains, he can do it with his legs.
"His ability to read and diagnose things quickly, and his ability to make quick decisions make him a tall task."
Wilson was recently criticized by Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for poor play. However, he has completed a career-best 67 percent of his passes this year for 2,388 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions while also rushing for 385 yards on 73 carries.
The Steelers used third-stringer Mike Vick, once one of the best running quarterbacks in the NFL, to run the scout team in practice this week to simulate what the defense will see in Wilson.
"I don't think there's a drop-off," Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said of Wilson. "They've lost some close games. There's a couple plays that didn't go their way."
Things went the Seahawks' way last Sunday in a 29-13 home victory over the 49ers that featured Rawls' 209 rushing yards. The undrafted free agent from Central Michigan, who will again start in place of Marshawn Lynch (abdominal surgery), will present his own challenge.
"He's a hard runner, fast, you can tell he's very explosive," Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt said.