When Ben Roethlisberger was asked yesterday about his wide receivers and the preciseness and toughness they displayed as route-runners, Pittsburgh’s Pro Bowl quarterback responded with this:
They [his wide receivers] aren’t the biggest guys in the world, so it’s easy for defensive backs to hold them, push them and arm-bar them, and they aren’t getting the calls. So it’s tough. They just need to keep fighting through those things. I know they will do that. They take pride in their work, and they work hard at it. We are going to spend some extra time today to make sure we can work through those issues.
I cannot say that I blame Roethlisberger for his frustration on the subject of the Steelers’ receivers and the disadvantages of their frames. His top-three pass-catchers are all on the smaller side when it comes to today’s N.F.L.: Antonio Brown is 5’10″ 186 lbs., Emmanuel Sanders is 5’11″ 180 lbs., and Jerricho Cotchery is 6’1″ 200 lbs.. While Derek Moye is 6’5″ 210 lbs. and gives the Steelers a tall threat in the red zone, rookie speedster Markus Wheaton, who also rounds out the receiving corps, is only 5’11″ 182 lbs..
In a league in which cornerbacks are far more physically imposing than in years past, it can be and has been tough for these pass-catchers to make things happen. Things will only get tougher for Pittsburgh’s pass-catchers this weekend though when they take on the large and physical cornerbacks of the Chicago Bears.
Three of Chicago’s top four cornerbacks are all over 6′ tall (Charles Tillman, Zack Bowman, and Isaiah Frey), and the 5’8″ Tim Jennings is one tough and physical play-maker for any offense to deal with outside the numbers. The veteran cornerback made his first Pro Bowl last year after he collected nine interceptions!
Tillman, Ike Taylor’s former teammate at Louisiana-Lafayette, has made the Pro Bowl after the last two seasons and is a threat to re-route receivers and force turnovers at all times. During his first ten years in the league, Tillman recorded 33 interceptions and forced an incredible 37 fumbles! The former Ragin’ Cajun has already picked off two passes this year, and Jennings has recovered a fumble and logged a pick-six during Chicago’s first two games as well.
With Tillman and Jennings to deal with, the Steelers’ outside pass-catchers must be ready for a long and brutal outing. If Pittsburgh’s passing game does not include a number of bunch formations, picks, and rubs this weekend against Chicago to help their smaller receivers, then the Bears’ cornerbacks could be in for a relatively easy outing on Sunday night.
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