Whenever a team faces the Cleveland Browns, covering superstar wide receiver Josh Gordon is at the forefront of that team’s mind. This week, the Pittsburgh Steelers will need to get by Gordon and the rival Browns in order to keep their unlikely playoff hopes alive, because they need to win and hope that the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and San Diego Chargers (against a Kansas City Chiefs team set to rest its starters) all lose. That’s a lot to bank on, but beating a rival team is enough motivation on its own.
So how will the Steelers handle one of the game’s best weapons on offense? Well, they aren’t going to be shadowing him with veteran cornerback Ike Taylor, who usually shadows No. 1 receivers and relishes the challenge. Here’s what Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said about the team’s strategy against Gordon, via the Steelers official site, “He will, but we’re not going to travel him. We’ve gotten comfortable with the rotation of Ike playing right cornerback and Cortez Allen playing left cornerback, and letting the party come to us. It has helped in terms of our pre-snap communications. It has been beneficial to us the past several weeks, and so I look forward to both of those guys pitting their skills vs. Gordon’s.”
It’s going to be interesting to see where the Browns line up Gordon the most in order to best take advantage of the Steelers strategy to keep both CBs in place instead of shadowing Gordon with one corner, and my guess is that Ike Taylor will get the most coverage time on Gordon. He’s been much worse than Cortez Allen this season, and Taylor could easily get picked apart by Gordon, who is easily one of the league’s most talented receivers with his ridiculous blend of size and speed. Gordon against the Steelers defense is a bad matchup waiting to happen, but at least the Steelers will most likely counter that with plenty of Troy Polamalu in deep coverage. Contrary to what some may think, Polamalu definitely deserved to be in the Pro Bowl and has put together a fantastic season, particularly when it comes to coverage.