Head-to-head: Steelers CB Ike Taylor vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green
September 16, 2013 4:00 AM
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) celebrates his touchdown reception with teammate Tyler Eifert (85) in the first half of Cincinnati's loss to Chicago last Sunday.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In four games against the Steelers, Bengals receiver A.J. Green has managed 18 catches and two touchdowns -- numbers that are respectable, if not productive.
But consider that 10 of those catches came in the previous meeting between the teams at Heinz Field. And that those catches came in a game in which cornerback Ike Taylor did not play because of injury.
Taylor's job is to shadow Green all over the field, something he typically does against the other team's best receiver. And Taylor has done his job well against the Bengals' top receiver, holding him to eight catches in three games, including just one for 8 yards last year in Cincinnati.
What's more, one of Green's two touchdown catches against the Steelers -- a 36-yarder in his first appearance against them as a rookie -- came over top of Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu in the end zone, not Taylor.
"He's one of the top receivers in the league," Clark said. "He's definitely an elite guy. Body control-wise, hands-wise, I think he's probably second to none. If there's a guy who is even on his level you might say Calvin Johnson, but that would be it."
Stopping Green, a two-time Pro Bowler, is not the Steelers' only chore tonight against the Bengals. But it is probably their most significant -- and most difficult.
And they will do it with Taylor, who has done a good job keeping Green under control. That is something other corners have not been able to do, including Chicago's Charles Tillman.
"We put our best on their best," Polamalu said. "It's a huge matchup for both teams."
Former Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins, who played for Dick LeBeau in Cincinnati and worked with the Steelers defensive backs several years ago at training camp, said Taylor is a very good technical player who presents problems for Green.
"A.J. is a highly physically-gifted player, but I don't think A.J. understands exactly how to beat Ike," Hawkins said in an interview on Bengals.com. "There's a system on how to beat Ike. He's such a methodical, solid player. He's a lot like Leon Hall. He's one of the top-five press, man-to-man corners in the league."
Green entered his third season with 162 catches, second most in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons. He is the first player to have 100 catches, 1,500 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in his first 20 games.
Last week, he had the best season-opener of his young career, catching nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns while being shadowed by Tillman, a Pro Bowl corner. Tillman got some measure of satisfaction with two interceptions.
"We don't have to worry about A.J. so much because we have Ike, and Ike followed him before and played well against him," Clark said. "But now, infusing two tight ends, it's going to be difficult for us."
The reference was to the Bengals' new offensive look that features two pass-catching tight ends -- rookie Tyler Eifert, their No. 1 pick; and two-time Pro Bowler Jermaine Gresham. The threat of each will force the Steelers to commit at least one safety to the middle of the field, creating more deep space for Green.