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Steelers vs. Panthers key matchup: Ryan Shazier vs. Greg Olsen

The Pittsburgh Steelers prized 1st-round draft pick has struggled in covering the middle of the field against tight ends, and this will be a big matchup to watch on Sunday night.

Gregory Shamus

The Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled to stop anyone or anything in the first two games of the 2014 season, but have been extremely vulnerable to athletic tight ends over the middle of the field. Jordan Cameron in Week 1 and Owen Daniels and/or Dennis Pitta in Week 2 exploited Ryan Shazier on several occasions for big plays down the seam.

Watch the loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night once again and you'll see several occasions where the Ravens sent their tight end in motion to make the defense tip their hand on coverage and, when they had Shazier in single coverage, Joe Flacco never looked anywhere but to that matchup.

Shazier slipped on a couple plays but ultimately was caught looking into the backfield and was, therefore, a step behind in his coverage and the Ravens, like the Browns a week earlier, made them pay.

Obviously, not every pass completion against Shazier was solely on his shoulders, as sometimes coverage breaks down in different locations and different positions. But Shazier will have to be solid in run support and, more importantly, in pass coverage against a tight end like Carolina Panthers' Greg Olsen.

The eight-year veteran has become one of Cam Newton's favorite targets, and he has torched opponents in both weeks so far this season. Olsen has 14 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown. His 11.1 yards-per-reception average is something that should catch the Steelers' attention heading into this game.

Don't be surprised if the Panthers come out throwing the football to open up the running game with a depleted backfield, and Olsen will most likely be a target early and often. Ryan Shazier and company will have to defend the pass better when facing a very athletic tight end, if they expect to win this matchup, and ultimately, the game.

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