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Steelers Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark weigh in on Lions WR Calvin Johnson

It isn't hard to praise the Lions' prolific receiver, and Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark didn't spare any accolades, writes BTSC's Dale Grdnic.

Gregory Shamus

PITTSBURGH -- Like his namesake, Megatron, who dominated the Transformers, Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson pretty much has had his way with NFL secondaries this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor is no stranger to playing against an opponent's best wide receiver, but he never has faced one like Johnson.

"You have to take him on, Mano e' Mano,'' Taylor said. "They don't call him Megatron for nothing. You get a nickname like that. That's a great nickname. It's like a robotic nickname. Myself, I like the Transformers. ... I like 'em, and when you've got a nickname like Megatron that means you're doing something special. And you can ask anybody, he's one of the best receivers in the NFL.

"I just like competing every week. Point-blank. Period. Regardless of who I'm playing, I like the challenge. I'm up for it, and I'm glad the coaching staff feels that way about me. They like my skills and allow me to compete each week against a guy like Megatron. Me, I would probably be a Decepticon. I'm a villain kind of guy. I like being a bad guy, so I'm going to stay on the bad-guy side.''

Sure, Taylor and the 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson have been matched against each other before, in 2009 when the Lions wideout was in his third NFL season. Taylor won that matchup, as Johnson had just one catch for two yards, but he played just 13 snaps and later missed two games due to an injury. And the Steelers won the game, 28-20, at Detroit's Ford Field.

"I left that game with an MCL or meniscus or something,'' Johnson said.

That might be the best way to limit Johnson this week, to knock him out of the game, as the Steelers (3-6) face the NFC North-leading Lions (6-3) at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.

In eight games, Johnson has 53 catches for 904 yards (17.1 per catch) and nine touchdowns. The past two seasons, he has a combined 218 catches for 3,645 yards and 21 touchdowns, including 16 scores in 2012. Taylor determined the best way to play Johnson.

"You play football,'' Taylor said. "It's kind of like having that Allen Iverson mentality. He didn't care who he went against with his size or Maurice Jones-Drew. You can talk about his size, but when he's healthy he's probably one of the best running backs. So, size, to a certain degree, that can make a difference. It's especially important with a guy like Megatron.

"He can run, jump and catch, too, but that's a talent you can't coach. It's a God-given talent. That's why we just have to go out and play football. I've been playing football since I was small, and nothing has changed since then. It's just a bigger challenge this week. Every week it's a challenge. That's what I love about the game of football. Every week, I respect my opponents.''

Steelers safety Ryan Clark believed that Johnson couldn't be stopped by one player, even someone as successful in man-to-man coverage such as Taylor.

"Sometimes, you can't stop him with three,'' Clark said. "So, for us, it's a good opportunity to go out there and play a good passing team with a good quarterback and some good players around him, including the best receiver in the NFL. ... We have to make Matthew force the ball into Calvin to make a play. That way, we can have a better chance to make a play against them.

"I would compare Calvin to a young Randy Moss, but what Calvin does better is his run after catch. He's a bigger guy, so he's tougher to bring down. He's a physical player, so he's a tough matchup. I guess if you get the best things from the best players in every era, you might be able to come up with Calvin if you put all those things together. But no one guy compares to him.''

Taylor believed that every week was a challenge.

"I come to work every week and respect the process,'' Taylor added. "That's how I look at it. Megatron is more of a jumper than Randy Moss. Randy didn't get off his feet too many times. He cleared it out.

"He outran coverages, but Calvin ... he can do the same thing, but with a 6-5 frame he can go across the middle and take it to the house. He can out-jump you and go get the ball anywhere on the field and beat you.''

That's what makes Megatron, Megatron. So, it's a good thing the Steelers have a Decepticon such as Taylor matched against him this week.

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