Lions' WR Johnson has Steelers' attention
The Steelers' game plan against the Detroit Lions is simple: They aren't likely to shut down All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson, but they must minimize his impact Sunday at Heinz Field.
Few teams have managed to contain Megatron — a big, physical flanker with incalculable talents. He is a difficult matchup for a secondary that surrendered 432 passing yards to New England's diminutive receivers in a 55-31 defeat.
Johnson is the heart of the Lions' offense. He also is the pulse of a team seemingly in the catbird seat in the NFC North.
The 6-foot-5 Johnson is as close to unstoppable as it comes in the NFL. The Steelers held him to one catch four years ago, in part, because he left early with a knee injury in the Steelers' 28-20 win.
“If you throw the ball up, he's going to get it,” Steelers receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “If you play press, he's going to beat the press. … He's a freak of nature.”
Johnson is a super freak. Ask the Dallas Cowboys' secondary, which Johnson shredded Oct. 27 for 14 catches and 329 yards — the second-most receiving yards in NFL history.
The Steelers figure they can slow Detroit by forcing quarterback Matthew Stafford to overplay his hand with Johnson.
“You can't stop Calvin Johnson with one man,” safety Ryan Clark said. “Sometimes you can't stop him with three. There's not going to be a defense we're going to make up that (Johnson) is going to say, ‘This is the first time I've seen it.' ”
The Cowboys used several schemes against Johnson, including single and double coverage with safeties shadowing him.
“We have to match Johnson's intensity,” cornerback William Gay said. “I haven't seen any defensive coordinator take him out of the game. It's hard to stop him.”
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will be pressed to devise a plan to keep the ball out of Johnson's hands.
“If (Stafford) sees an opportunity for me to make a play, he'll try to get the ball to me,” said Johnson, who has 53 receptions for 904 yards. “Hopefully we can wreck (LeBeau's) scheme. The last couple of weeks we've seen some single coverage, and we've been able to make plays because of it.”
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley said the only way to stop Johnson is to pressure Stafford.
Cornerback Ike Taylor has stared down some of the league's best receivers and had success. He held Cincinnati's A.J. Green to one catch last season, but Johnson is a better pass-catcher than he was in 2009 when he faced Taylor.
“If there is somebody that can do it, it's going to be (Taylor),” said linebacker Larry Foote, who played one season with Johnson in Detroit before rejoining the Steelers in 2011.
Yet Foote acknowledges Johnson will be a tough assignment.
“He's one of those guys you don't like to look at because he's truly a Megatron,” Foote said.
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.
- Increasing pressure on QBs will be offseason focus for Steelers
- Steelers mum on national report involving head of security
- Steelers sign punter Wing to 1-year extension
- Steelers’ Rooney says both teams should use same footballs
- Steelers’ Rooney ‘not expecting a problem’ with new Big Ben deal
- Steelers sign CFL defensive end Lemon
- Steelers injured running back Bell won’t be in uniform for Pro Bowl
- NFL names sportsmanship award after Steelers founder
- Steelers LBs Jones, Shazier vow to grow from tough seasons
- Injury history for Steelers’ Thomas casts safety’s future in doubt
- Steelers’ unrestricted free agent Moats proves worth at linebacker