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Browns vs. Steelers key match-ups: CB Joe Haden vs. WR Antonio Brown

Haden is one of the league's best and so is Brown. It's a battle every year, with Brown having gotten the better of Haden in two games last year.

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It takes a lot to get the better of Browns cornerback Joe Haden, and few have done so.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is one of them - perhaps the best one. Brown had 17 targets against Haden last year, catching 15 of them for 179 yards and a touchdown. Those 15 catches were typical of Brown's 2013 season; some were short, but the well-timed, deep ones were successful.

Most notable is the 41-yard touchdown he caught right as the beaten Haden got to him in the end zone. A quarter-second later and Haden would have broken up the pass.

It's not easy beating Haden.

The two have been doing battle against each other for a few years now, even during the presence of ex-Steelers WR Mike Wallace. Haden also had responsibility on Brown on one of his best touchdowns to date. In 2011, Brown caught a small-window throw down the right sideline, bursting around Haden and down the chalk 71 yards for the game-winning score.

It took one of the most impressive plays of the budding superstar's career to beat Haden. No one in the NFL is faster in and out of cuts than Brown, and Haden learned this lesson that night. Just looking at what Brown has had to do to make plays on Haden, it would seen the other shoe will fall eventually and the Pro Bowl cornerback will have his day. Brown's plays often are instrumental in victories in this game, and limiting him will be a key for Cleveland in Week 1.

On the other hand, getting Brown the ball will be a key for the Steelers. It's essentially the make-or-break component of what could be a defensive standoff between the AFC rivals. How much can Haden and the bracket coverage Cleveland likely will put on Brown limit the receiver coming off a franchise-record 1,499 receiving yards and the second-highest mark he had against any team last year (Chicago was the top for one game; Brown had 193 yards)?

Figuring out how to get Brown the ball short while trying to set up big gainers down the field will be critical for the Steelers, as they look to snap a three-year losing streak in season openers.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,000,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $25 to join and first place wins $100,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link. FYI: These are just my opinions and Fanduel gave me money to play.