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Trenton Simpson shines in significant defensive debut

Simpson’s played here and there, but in Week 18 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he made the most of his hefty snap count

Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

For 16 games, Baltimore Ravens rookie linebacker Trenton Simpson has played a combined 20 snaps on defense. His primary role in Year 1 has been special teams, where he’s taken 237 snaps. On Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he saw that number sky-rocket as the Ravens didn’t play linebacker Roquan Smith and aimed to not play fellow starter Patrick Queen in the second half. With his increased role, Simpson made tough open-field tackles in the pouring rain and bitter January cold.

In all, Simpson finished with five tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit, dominating the stat sheet in a 17-10 loss. However, Simpson was all smiles.

“It was a blessing, man,” Simpson said. “I’m just so excited to get out there and get an opportunity and then go out there and make a couple of plays. The excitement that my teammates have for me meant the most for me from like Roquan [Smith] to ‘PQ’ [Patrick Queen], like them guys is hyping me up and give me the confidence all week to just go out there and just play ball was just the best thing I could have. And then just to go out there and have a performance.”

Midway through the third, Simpson got his first NFL sack, taking down Mason Rudolph as he knifed through the Pittsburgh line on a delayed blitz.

“I’ll never forget that,” Simpson said. “Just the feeling when I seen it open and I was like, ‘Ok, I gotta make a play,’ and then just the excitement and the celebration was just all the trust in the process throughout the season and keeping my confidence. It was the best feeling in the world.”

It’s been a lot of patience for Simpson, who went from playing in 33 games for the Clemson Tigers the past three years to watching his teams’ defense from the sideline. But he remained diligent in preparing for this moment, asking teammates Smith and Queen for advice on everything and studying game film.

“I would say I was super prepared,” Simpson said, regarding his emotions entering this game. “Just staying up, studying and just knowing my opportunity was coming this week and I knew for sure that I was gonna get a chance to go out there and play. I’d say I was super prepared. All week, I was asking Roquan [Smith], ‘PQ’ [Patrick Queen] and everybody in the linebacker room just questions just to, you know, pick up tendencies on what they’ve seen playing the Steelers from their time in the league and, just getting a chance to go out there and I feel like I was very prepared in this show today.”

With Queen set to be a free agent, it’s up in the air what next season could hold, be it a long-term deal with Queen in Baltimore or a real opportunity for Simpson to be the next partner of Smith’s. Queen has been supportive of the young ‘backer throughout the process.

“Just keep going man,” Simpson said of what Queen tells him. “Just, this is just a step-stone, stepping in the right direction. Just keep going, continue to get ready to go to practice Wednesday and get better, you know, and this, this is just the beginning, just continue to keep going growing every day, trust in the process and every day just asking, keep asking questions.”