Ike Taylor faces big challenge, but that isn't anything new

Nick Laham

Facing Detroit's Calvin Johnson is something of a new experience, but the Steelers, and cornerback Ike Taylor, have gone up against the best in the league before, and have done a decent job.

This Sunday, the Steelers hope to build on their win against Buffalo by matching up Ike Taylor against Calvin Johnson . At first glance, Ike Taylor seems to have history on his side, having held Calvin Johnson to a very pedestrian 1 catch for 2 yards in 2009. Unfortunately, this statistic does not hold up to heavier scrutiny. Johnson left the game with a knee injury, so in many ways, this is still the first time the Steelers will see him.

Although Johnson had already established himself as a force to reckoned with at wide receiver in 2009, he had his lowest total yards and receptions outside of his rookie year. He had missed multiple games that year including much of the Pittsburgh game. We could leave it at that, but he was also playing with then-backup quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Not exactly the same as Matthew Stafford.

This isn't to say that Ike hasn't demonstrated his capability of handling large and fast wide receivers. Taylor seems to have a knack for having some of his better games against the top receivers, frustrating them with tight coverage and savvy play.

Look at Cincinnati's A.J. Green - just an inch shorter than Johnson's 6-foot-5. Taylor, as well as the rest of the Steelers' defense, has been able to bottle up Green in most games holding him to 14 receptions, 172 yards, and 3 touchdowns over 4 games. This is compared to AJ Green's 10 catches for 116 yards in Week 16 last year, a game Taylor missed due to injury.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn't like the comparison to Green though, "A.J.'s a talented young receiver, but Calvin's in the prime of his career," Tomlin said at his press conference Tuesday. "He's a much bigger man. He presents a different set of challenges." He would rather opt for comparisons to Randy Moss.

Ike faced off against Moss in 2008 holding him to four catches on 45 yards while Moss was with the Patriots but the Steelers were a different team back then.

Despite this being a key match-up, it may end up being decided by whether or not we can put pressure on Stafford.

If Johnson has the time to get open, Ike will not be able to keep him contained. The Lions have only let up 10 sacks on the season while the Steelers have only been able to generate 16. The Lions have to feel good about this match-up if it comes down to the Steelers pass rush.

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