Though he’s not getting the same kind of attention as the QBs picked around him in this year’s draft, Washington defensive end Chase Young has quietly lived up to the hype of being the No. 2 overall pick. Heading into Monday’s game against the undefeated Steelers, he was in the company of much more established edge rushers both in terms of how often he gets doubled-teamed and how often he beats his block in under 2.5 seconds. According to ESPN’s Seth Walder, only a couple of elite defenders—Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett—are a cut above Young in both those metrics.
The abilities implied by those numbers show up for those watching the game the old-fashioned way, too—Young’s got 7.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks in 11 games this season. But Monday’s 23-17 Washington win is where the skills that made Chase Young the most feared player in all of college football at Ohio State stole the show.
More than anything that Washington put up on the scoreboard, the defining and most memorable play was the product of an individual defender. Midway through the second quarter, as the Steelers looked to go up 14-0 on a fourth-and-goal from the one, it was Young’s superlative instincts and speed that allowed him to pull RB Benny Snell back from the goal line before he could cross it, keeping Pittsburgh from doubling their lead and helping the Football Team make a statement as they tried to become the first squad to stymie their previously 11-0 foes.
After the game, a humble Young credited the fact that one Pittsburgh blocker—Eric Ebron—was lined up in front of two defenders, allowing him to suddenly appear in the backfield.
“In my head, I was like ‘He’s going to have to choose,'” he said. “‘He’s going to choose me, or the guy outside of me.'”
“So in my head, I just said ‘all right, I’m going to shoot it. He’s going to have to pick.’ So I just shot it and he was kind of, he didn’t know who to chose. He ain’t block me, that’s why I made the play.”
But even if this game-changing play was in no small part the result of fortuitous positioning, it was still the kind of eye-catching reward that Young deserved. When you’re getting double-teamed as much as perennial all-pros, it has to be nice to just confidently shoot out of a cannon and into the backfield every once in a while.
And though it didn’t quite have the same level of drama as the goal-line stand, another tackle that Young made late in the second half had a significant impact on the game’s outcome. With a long pass to James Washington on their next possession, the Steelers were in fact able to take that 14-0 lead, but as Ben Roethlisberger was running a two-minute drill to try and extend it even further at the end of the half, the 265-pound Young let loose his inner sprinter to slow down JuJu Smith-Schuster as he tried to convert on third-and-3. After a measurement, the Steelers were forced to punt, allowing Washington to take the ball and score a field goal before time expired, then come out at halftime to immediately cut the deficit to 14-10.
Here’s the scariest part: Chase Young is 21 years old.