Steelers’ strategy: Shut down Green
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Saturday, October 20, 2012, 1:51 a.m.
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
The Steelers defensively will simplify the game plan against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. No need to complicate matters when facing a mostly one-dimensional team.
The Bengals, often handcuffed by an inconsistent run game, are sometimes forced to rely almost exclusively on gifted receiver A.J. Green.
No one, of course, can fault second-year quarterback Andy Dalton for making Green his first and last options. Green has fashioned impressive numbers: an NFL-best 628 receiving yards on 43 catches this season.
Green has accomplished much of that while facing double coverage. He isn't the best route runner and isn't likely to beat Mike Wallace in the 40-yard dash, but few receivers can routinely turn nothing into the spectacular.
“The thing about A.J. Green is, you could have him covered, he just makes the catch,” safety Ryan Clark said. “He's got extreme body control, great hands, and he's definitely one of the top five receivers in the league already.”
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has seen enough game film to know the Bengals will be persistent in sticking with schemes designed to maximize Green's touches. A year ago, the Bengals tried to ignite the running game against the Steelers as Green sprinted 15 yards on a reverse.
If Dalton doesn't relent in firing at Green, cornerback Ike Taylor likely will be the target. The Steelers might mix up their coverage occasionally, but Taylor will draw — if not insist — on man-on-man coverage with Green.
“Ike is our best corner, and A.J. is their best receiver,” safety Ryan Mundy said. “I'm sure they'll cross paths throughout the game.”
Taylor said you can count on it.
“Green has been playing lights out,” said Taylor, who was flagged for three penalties at Tennessee on Oct. 11. “It's going to be a challenge for our defense. It's going to be a challenge for me.”
The Steelers are confident, in part, because Taylor held Green to one catch (a 36-yard score) during the teams' first meeting last year at Paul Brown Stadium. He tormented and frustrated the then-rookie flanker by jamming him at the line of scrimmage and rerouting his patterns, thus disrupting the Bengals' timing.
But Green gained some redemption two weeks later when he had six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.
“They're moving me around a lot this season to create matchup problems for the defense,” Green said. “I feel more comfortable this year. I didn't know what was going on last year, and I'm not as nervous, either.
“The Steelers are physical and play a lot of man coverage. They may not have (Troy) Polamalu, but they have one of the best safeties in football in Ryan Clark, who doesn't get the respect he deserves.”
Clark is convinced Green can be discouraged simply by tagging him every time he's the target. It was a tactic Cleveland applied last weekend, but Green still finished with seven catches for 135 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown reception.
“The great equalizer is physicality,” Clark said. “We'll try to get hands on him and make him work for his catches. Then, once he catches it, get hats on the ball.”
Dalton would like to spread the wealth among his receiving corps. But the Steelers aren't likely to lose focus of the Bengals' primary target.
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
You must be signed in to add comments
To comment, click the Sign in or sign up at the very top of this page.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.