Steelers get ready for hard offensive challenge
The Steelers' wide receivers are hoping Halloween arrives a little early.
Trick or treat bags in hand, they apparently can't wait for Eagles rookie nickel back Brandon Boykin to open the candy drawer and start passing out goodies. Especially touchdowns.
With the Steelers' passing game producing at a record level through three games — Ben Roethlisberger is the NFL's No. 2-ranked quarterback — wide receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders face a challenging matchup Sunday in Eagles cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Asomugha is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and, to Wallace, might be the NFL's best active cornerback now that Darrelle Revis of the Jets is hurt. Rodgers-Cromartie, who already has three interceptions, is 6-2 and 180. Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie use their size to their advantage by pressing receivers at the line of scrimmage.
“They're really athletic guys,” Wallace said. “They get after it every game, so you've got to keep your head on a swivel and just be ready.”
But it is Boykin who appears to offer the best opportunity for targeting by a deep and productive receiving corps. At 5-9, 182, he isn't as physically imposing as Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, and the fourth-round pick from Georgia nicknamed “Bam” has played only four NFL games.
Brown is already circling Boykin's name, memorizing his No. 22.
“I don't know where ‘The Candy Bar' came from,” Brown said when asked about his confectionary-sweet description of the rookie.
“They've got two Pro Bowl-productive corners, so we're looking for some opportunities.”
Boykin appears to offer the most tantalizing matchup for Roethlisberger, who averages 301.3 yards per game passing. But since Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie are more likely to cover Wallace and Brown, slot receiver Sanders could draw Boykin.
Sanders seems as confident as Brown that there is yardage to be gained against the Eagles (3-1), no matter how many Pro Bowlers man their secondary.
“He's a rookie, he's finding his own, he's playing football to the best of his ability,” Sanders said of Boykin, not exactly flattering him with praise.
Boykin has been targeted 20 times, allowing nine catches for 103 yards.
“This game is about mismatches, and that's what it is,” Sanders said. “Right now, honestly, all across the board matchup-wise, Mike can definitely take Nnamdi Asomugha. We definitely could take any one of their corners. It's all about finding the right matchup for the defensive scheme they're playing.”
During the Eagles' 19-17 win Sunday over the Giants, Boykin sometimes lined up against elite receiver Victor Cruz. The result? “The Giants threw the ball to Victor Cruz,” Sanders said.
The more-experienced Wallace isn't talking as confidently as Brown and Sanders about finding weaknesses in the Eagles' defense.
“(Boykin) is getting better every week,” Wallace said. “I've seen him make some plays on tape, I've seen him do well. I think he has some potential. He's inexperienced, but he's not going to let us go out there and make plays all over the field. He's going to be ready to play. But at the same token we're going to be ready, too.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers offensive linemen looking to build on strong 2013 finish
- Steelers hope group of low-budget cornerbacks can deliver
- Steelers hoping that youth movement breathes life into team
- Steelers linebacker Spence confident he can avoid injury setbacks
- Inside the ropes: Shazier shows off speed
- GM Colbert expects Roethlisberger to end career with Steelers
- Steelers notebook: Team hasn’t called on Keisel, Harrison yet
- Roethlisberger ‘prays’ he can stay with Steelers when deal expires
- Inside the ropes: Roethlisberger may have his big receiver
- Steelers notebook: Ben believes rookie WR Bryant can contribute
- Steelers WR Wheaton wants to produce after injury-plagued rookie year