Nov 10, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) makes a touchdown catch against Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (33) during the second half at Soldier Field. Detroit defeats Chicago 21-19. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Can The Pittsburgh Steelers' Ike Taylor Cover Megatron?

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.

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Tags: Calvin Johnson Ike Taylor Megatron Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Dom DiTolla

    I’d roll the dice with single coverage at first, especially since Taylor has handled guys like AJ Green in the past. However, I would be quick to offer some over the top help with a safety or try to roll coverage that way on short or intermediate routes if it becomes an enormous problem.

    As afraid as I am of “Megatron,” Pittsburgh’s run defense is suspect and Stafford & Co. could hit them hard with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell if they start taking guys out of the box. While that does not worry me as much as the matchup issues Johnson presents, that’s still something to watch for this weekend.

  • jaheem

    If the writer would do his homework instead of jumping the gun and saying Calvin was shutdown you would know he left in the first quarter of the game the last time they played.

    • Craig

      I’ll concede that shutdown was the wrong word to use since he only played 13 snaps before getting taken out of the game. Up to that point, Taylor was effectively covering Johnson. I think he can continue doing that in this matchup.

  • straw walker

    To stop CJ Pitts needs to double press CJ off the line. A CB and a LB double him off the line, forcing a huge delay in his timed routes.. Single coverage against CJ is at your own peril.