Tim Benz: A potential matchup nightmare for Steelers vs. Seahawks | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: A potential matchup nightmare for Steelers vs. Seahawks

Tim Benz
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AP
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf makes a catch over Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson (22) during the first half Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Seattle.

Silly me. I thought Rob Gronkowski had retired.

Clearly, he didn’t. He just changed his position to wide receiver, his number to 10, and his name to Josh Gordon.

Because, obviously, that’s who I was watching in Foxborough Sunday night against the Steelers, right?

Doing to the Steelers what he had always done to the Steelers. Bouncing off defensive backs for big plays or running through them en route to the end zone.

See, I told you that was Gronk. But man, that Josh Gordon costume was pretty convincing.

Now the Steelers face a receiver similar to Gordon who has tight end-esque size and strength Sunday. That’s the Seattle Seahawks’ DK Metcalf.

The rookie out of Mississippi had four receptions for 89 yards in his debut against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“He’s a physical specimen,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He looks like a linebacker but runs like a wideout. He’s a talented guy. He creates some matchup issues. He’s freaky.”

No exaggeration from Tomlin there. Metcalf is listed at 6-foot-4, 229 pounds. All muscle. His physique was the talk of the 2019 NFL Combine. After he got measured, Metcalf shot up draft boards. The Seahawks selected him with the last pick in the second round.

For a while, it appeared Metcalf would go much higher.

In the end, nine receivers were selected before him. It appeared league scouts and general managers talked themselves into believing that Metcalf was more of a bodybuilder than a receiver. That he wasn’t polished and wasn’t shifty enough. Some even compared him to West Virginia’s Kevin White, another Adonis who kept getting injured and never developed in Chicago.

After Metcalf’s debut, maybe some of those other teams should’ve bought into the buzz in the first place.

Steelers receiver Donte Moncrief is also an Ole Miss alum. Metcalf not only went to college in Oxford, Miss., but also played high school ball there. Moncrief saw Metcalf play in the scholastic ranks.

“He’s been a freak since high school,” Moncrief said. “A good player. A good receiver, but he blew up out of nowhere. I didn’t know he was that big. Now he’s like a tight end.”

During a conference call with Pittsburgh media members this week, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll rattled off Metcalf’s attributes that went well beyond his impressive frame.

“A competitor. Toughness. He’s really bright,” Carroll gushed. “Football makes sense to him.”

It is the mental aspect of the position that seems to impress Carroll the most.

“There’s a lot of receivers who come out of (college) programs, and it’s hard for them to adapt quickly,” he continued. “It takes them a couple of years. But he’s been very adept at picking things up.”

Carroll says Metcalf’s aptitude has allowed the coaches to move him around the offense to exploit defensive matchups earlier than what some other raw rookies may be capable of doing.

Steelers cornerback Joe Haden sees the comparisons to Gordon (6-foot-3, 225 lbs) and expects Seattle to deploy Metcalf in a similar way to what New England did.

“He’s a big dude,” Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said. “A big target. Very fast. They’ll try to put him into good positions for him which are the slant and the fade route.”

Gordon had 73 yards and a touchdown last week, but he also demanded enough attention that the Steelers had trouble containing Phillip Dorsett, who had 95 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots.

Not to mention the predictable six catches and 83 yards for Julian Edelman.

Similarly, the Seahawks also have another receiving threat in Tyler Lockett, who is coming off of 965 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago. He got loose for a 44-yard score against the Bengals in the opener.

So just another similarity to the Patriots receiving group that the Steelers need to combat.

Now, if Russell Wilson comes dressed as Tom Brady, Tomlin’s team will be in real trouble.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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