Willie Henry did not get the start in Sunday’s 26-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium, but the Ravens’ second-year defensive tackle might have earned himself some consideration for such a role in the future.
Henry was one of only three defensive players to hit Ben Roethlisberger, getting to the Pittsburgh quarterback twice. He also batted down two passes and added a solo tackle.
That, combined with a five-tackle performance in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 24, has laid a solid foundation for Henry, a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft who was active for only one game last season before getting placed on injured reserve Nov. 15. He has played more because of the left foot injury to starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams.
Asked whether he feels he has earned the trust of the coaching staff, Henry replied: “I believe so, and it’s not just the coaches, but my teammates and the team. So I just go out there and let what the coaches coached me up on all summer and just go out there and just play football.”
Henry, 6 feet 3, 308 pounds, was the only defensive lineman to bat down Roethlisberger’s passes at the line of scrimmage, and he acknowledged that he has been honing his technique to get his hands in the air.
“It was an instinct,” he said. “If we’re not getting it with the pass rush, we have to get our hands up in the passing lanes and hopefully I can get my hands on a couple, which I did today.”
Henry earned Pro Football Focus’ third-highest grade for the Ravens, an 84.0 that would have been higher if he had not jumped offside to give the Steelers a first down in the second quarter. Ultimately though, the individual numbers paled to what Henry was aiming for.
“It felt good to get them, but it would have better if I did that and we got the 'W,' ” he said. “So all I can do is look at the film and see how I can get better as a 3-technique [defensive tackle].”