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Everyone remembers vividly the sight of Torrey Smith running past William Gay. We were all waiting with anxious anticipation for safety help over the top....
.... It was help that would never come.
Smith's diving touchdown grab in the end zone would ultimately cost the Steelers the AFC North.
For Willie Gay, the nickname "Big Play" sadly went both ways, covering accomplishments made by him and against him. He is now gone, and Ryan Mundy's time spent blowing assignments earlier this season has been replaced with effective play by Will Allen.
The secondary has enjoyed great success lately. Before a final game-tying drive in regulation, Matt Cassel's Chiefs could barely complete a pass. Eight days earlier, Eli Manning had his worst game in recent seasons.
And, though his numbers suffered against the Steelers defensive backs, Robert Griffin III's anemic afternoon in the Steel City was largely the product of 10 dropped passes.
The corners, Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis, have spent less time in zone coverage, a luxury that has been a more viable option with the defensive front finally getting some pressure on opposing passers. Their man-to-man performance has been, for lack or desire to use a better word, studly.
Keenan Lewis, the same corner who suffered from early season jitters and missed a slew of tackles, has made a series of great plays in recent weeks. His confidence in covering the deep pass has been obvious, with Lewis breaking up and preventing a number of downfield hookups.
Ike Taylor is showing a swag that was missing in the early weeks, Ryan Clark has been "Johnny on the spot," and Will Allen has been a wonderful change of pace (or, should I say "change from peril") opposed to Mundy.
Because he has been so effective in physical man coverage, much like his peer across the field, I'd have little hesitation to put Keenan Lewis on either Anquan Boldin or Torrey Smith. Personally, I believe Ike Taylor would be able to successfully shut down Smith, in the same way he contained (or completely negated) fast, capable playmakers such as DeSean Jackson and Santonio Holmes. Besides, why wouldn't you put your best cover corner on the opposition's best wideout?
Of note, Smith has seven touchdowns, while Boldin has a lesser yards per receptions and touchdown total (1).
The Steelers will have the added challenge of stopping tight end Dennis Pitta, the only other Raven with multiple touchdowns.
However, the entire goal of containing Baltimore's skill players will become futile if the Steelers cannot stop the game's best two-way back (next slide).