Head-to-head: Steelers WR Jerricho Cotchery vs. Lions CB Rashean Mathis


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Jerricho Cotchery has developed into one of the best values in the National Football League as the Steelers' No. 3 receiver. The Miami Dolphins probably wish they could say the same thing about Mike Wallace, whose departure from the Steelers has created more playing time for Cotchery.

Cotchery leads the Steelers with six touchdown catches -- four in the past two games -- and a per-catch average of 14.7 yards. In nine games, he has 31 catches, 455 yards receiving and eight catches of 20 yards or longer. His salary this season: $1 million.

Meantime, Wallace is scheduled to make $12 million with the Dolphins this season after signing a $60 million contract during the offseason. But he has provided little return on that investment. After nine games, he has 40 catches, one touchdown, a per-catch average of 12.4 yards and just five catches of 20 yards or longer.

Who is the better bargain?

"He brings it every day," said Antonio Brown, who leads the league with 67 receptions but has three fewer touchdowns than Cotchery. "I never hear him complain. ... He puts in that max effort."

The Detroit Lions feel that way about cornerback Rashean Mathis, especially when they are facing the Steelers.

Over the years, Mathis has tormented the Steelers as much as any of their other longtime nemeses (Carl Pickens, Eric Metcalf, Steve McNair, Tom Brady). Six of his 30 career interceptions have come against the Steelers, all when he played for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Three of the interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Five of the picks are against Ben Roethlisberger.

Probably the most damaging of those interceptions came in a 2007 wild-card playoff game at Heinz Field when Mathis had interceptions on back-to-back series, the first of which was returned 63 yards for a touchdown in Jacksonville's 31-29 victory.

Former wide receiver Hines Ward once said Mathis scared him more than any other cornerback because of his penchant for big plays against the Steelers.

"He is a good cornerback," Roethlisberger said during a conference call this week with the Detroit media. "... I respect him and I know what he is bringing to the table."

Mathis will start at cornerback in today's 1 p.m. game at Heinz Field, but he has also played in the slot as the Lions' nickel back. If he lines there again, he would face Cotchery, who had seven catches for 96 yards and three touchdowns in New England two weeks ago.

Mathis, a 10-year veteran who joined the Lions as a free agent in August, has been doing this for a while against the Steelers.

In 2005, he returned a Tommy Maddox pass 41 yards for a touchdown in overtime for a 23-17 victory at Heinz Field, a game in which he also partially blocked a Chris Gardocki punt to set up a field goal. In 2006, he had two interceptions against Roethlisberger in a 9-0 Jaguars' win in Jacksonville -- the last time the Steelers were shutout.

Mathis, though, is in an interception drought. He hasn't picked off a pass since a Sept. 18, 2011 game against the New York Jets. But he does lead the Lions with 10 pass breakups this season. And he is playing the Steelers.


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