clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Steelers secondary to face toughest test yet vs. Rams

Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua are one of the NFL’s best receiver tandems.

Cooper Kupp #10 and Puka Nacua #17 of the Los Angeles Rams in a huddle during a 26-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Inglewood, California. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

This coming Sunday the Steelers will face the Los Angeles Rams, who boast one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua are a daunting task for any secondary, let alone one that hasn’t fared well against opposing receivers. Through five games you could make the argument that the Steelers’ secondary has been the weakest spot on the team.

Here’s a list of how opponents’ top options have fared against the black and gold:

  • Week 1. vs. San Francisco - Brandon Aiyuk had eight catches for 129 yards and one TD.
  • Week 2 vs. Cleveland - Amari Cooper had seven catches for 90 yards.
  • Week 3. vs. Las Vegas - Davante Adams hauled in 13 passes for 172 yards and two TDs.
  • Week 4. vs Houston - Nico Collins went off for seven catches 168 yards and 2 TDs.
  • Week 5 vs. Baltimore - Zay Flowers - five catches for 73 yards.

I get that some of these guys make a lot of defenders look bad --- but those are jaw-dropping numbers.

The majority of the blame can be assigned to veteran corners Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace, as they’ve received the bulk of the snaps on the outside. As Head Coach Mike Tomlin would say, their performances have been “junior varsity,” at best.

Fans have been clamoring for more playing time for rookie Joey Porter Jr, who has been sensational in limited action — but it appears defensive coordinator Teryl Austin doesn’t seem ready to commit to Porter playing the bulk of the snaps:

“Is he ready for full-time right now? I’m not sure I can say I really feel great about that,” Austin said when asked about Porter’s progress.

Maybe that will change quickly against this Rams arsenal.

Since returning from injury, Cooper Kupp has 15 catches for 266 yards and a TD in just two games. The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2021) finally looks healthy, and his connection with quarterback Matthew Stafford has them finishing each other’s sentences.

But it’s not just Kupp who can dominate a game.

Rookie Puka Nacua has broken nearly every rookie receiver record in the books, including most receptions through a player’s first 4 games (31). Nacua has shown that he doesn’t need Kupp next to him to thrive.

To be blunt, this won’t be easy for Pittsburgh. Devils advocate --- maybe the Steelers are getting them at the right time? After a bye week, with more Porter Jr. on the horizon.

As the saying goes “You can’t stop them, you can only help to contain them.”

Containing Kupp and Nacua will be the only way the Steelers leave SoFI Stadium with a victory on Sunday.