Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
Pittsburgh’s secondary had struggled for much of the past month, having been shredded by a number of tight ends and receivers, including Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon, Torrey Smith and Charles Clay.
Looking at this group, three New England players put up over 100 receiving yards against Pittsburgh’s secondary and two players—Johnson and Gordon—had over 200 receiving yards.
The secondary seemed to finally get it together last week against the Bengals in limiting A.J. Green to 93 yards on nine receptions, with many of those coming against a soft defense.
Things won’t get any easier this weekend as Packer wide receiver Jordy Nelson provides his quarterbacks with a big downfield target against Pittsburgh cornerbacks.
Unlike previous years when Ike Taylor would match up against the opponent’s top receiver, Dick LeBeau had Taylor and Cortez Allen share the duty of stopping Green last week. Expect a similar tandem approach against Nelson.
Both cornerbacks are big and physical and have the ability defend the big-bodied Nelson.
Nelson leads the Packers in receptions (72), yards (1,107) and touchdowns (eight). He is a big-play receiver with 18 receptions of 20 yards or more and has 50 receptions for first downs.
Plays of 20 yards or more have plagued the Steelers all season, and the Packers will look to exploit this weakness as they will surely attack Taylor and Allen. Nelson has receptions of 20 yards or more in 12 of 14 games this season.
Taylor and Allen will be key in preventing against the big plays again this weekend. As long as they do, the Steelers' defense will be able to play to its strengths and give Pittsburgh a chance to win.