Antonio Brown's 5 and 50 streak ends tonight. Jason McCourty will limit his output. Held Steve Smith to 3 for 17 last week.— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) November 17, 2014
Radio host Andrew Filipponi predicted tonight would be the end of Antonio Brown's streak of five catches and 50 yards. There's some validity to that. As Poni pointed out, McCourty was a part of the Titans' efforts in holding Baltimore's Steve Smith to 17 yards on three catches.
One issue with that is Steve Smith ain't no Antonio Brown.
Brown had easily his worst game of the season in a 20-13 loss to the New York Jets. At the pace he was on, he would have broken the Steelers' single-season catches and yards records by Week 15. Perhaps in some ways he has cooled off a little but Smith was well into his somewhat predictable mid-season slump before he saw McCourty and Tennessee's decent passing defense.
If the Titans expect to cover Brown with McCourty exclusively, they'll surrender a big play or two - after Martavis Bryant helps open up the area Brown feasts on the most - the deep middle off of crossing routes. It's a throw Ben Roethlisberger hits in his sleep and it's a route on which no defender can cover Brown without help.
Still, that doesn't mean McCourty can't have some success against Brown as well. The wind will be whipping at LP Field and, while Roethlisberger has been hot when it's cold (16 touchdowns and two interceptions in his last five games when the weather was 40 degrees or lower at kickoff), the wind changes the deliveries of even the best passers.
Tennessee will have to provide bracketed coverage on Brown and will need their linebackers prepared to supply support for the short passing game. That will give the Steelers opportunities in the deep middle of the field, and it would seem logical for Bryant to be running deep on several plays, just to try to create that open space on which Brown thrives.
How effectively McCourty can disrupt Brown early in his route may be the difference between a multi-faceted Steelers attack with several big performances from individual players and a maddeningly one-dimensional game plan with lots of punts.