The Pittsburgh Steelers host Detroit this weekend to take on a Lions team that continues to have its traditional up and down season. Win or lose there has always been one thing consistent with the Lions ever since 2007 – Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, has been a beast on the field. The Steelers secondary has had it’s own ups and downs most of the season in 2013. Will they be able to contain Megatron on Sunday?
Never splashy but consistent in its coverage in years past, the defense has slipped in the standings of being one of the better coverage units in the NFL. Surprisingly, the passing defense is ranked 4th in yards. However, they’ve struggled with missed tackles (34), blown coverage (especially in key moments), and have given up more ‘big plays’ than they are ever accustomed to. Calvin Johnson will be a huge challenge to this team. Megatron has come on the last few years with gaining over 1,000 for three seasons straight and is already has over 900 in nine games this season.
The last time Johnson faced the Steelers was back in 2009, which also happens to be the last season he had under 1,000 yards receiving… but not by much (984). Strangely the Steelers were able to hold Johnson to only two yards. Yes, that’s right 2.0 yards on one catch. He was shut down that game, surprisingly, so the Lions offense targeted a slug of other receivers – with guys like Dennis Northcut getting lots of looks. That says a lot about Ike Taylor back then, who lined up against Johnson most of that game.
Taylor is sure to get the assignment of containing Johnson. I believe he can do it. He’s faced other top receivers like AJ Green (who has the most yards in the NFL as of Week 10) and shows no signs of choking when it comes to stopping a big time receiver. We hardly ever hear his name during a game, and there is a reason for that – he’s covering his assignment enough that a QB is not taking chances and challenging that coverage. Stop Megatron completely like last time? I highly doubt that. But, I think Ike with a little help from his friends Troy and *gulp* Clark can keep Johnson under 70 yards and zero touchdowns. What Steeler Nation should really be concerned about is that with focus being paid to Johnson, Lions QB Matt Stafford will be targeting other receivers. The other members of the Steelers secondary will need to step up just as much on their own assignments as Ike will with his because Johnson is sure to draw some double coverages – meaning one on one with the number two, slots, and TE’s.
I think the Steelers can hold Megatron from having a big game. The big question is whether the rest of the secondary can keep the other receivers from having big days as well.