Head-to-head: Steelers CB Ike Taylor vs. Saints WR Marques Colston
It wasn't as though defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau had to clear away mothballs when he reached into the closet and pulled out one of his favorite defensive tactics last week against the Miami Dolphins.
After all, it hasn't been that long since they used cornerback Ike Taylor to shadow the other team's top receiver.
But for the first time this season, LeBeau employed that defensive strategy against Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and it couldn't have worked any better in a 23-22 victory.
Marshall, who is 6 feet 5, 230 pounds, was held to five catches for 57 yards and didn't have a catch longer than 19 yards. The only time Taylor didn't line against him was when Marshall was in the slot.
"We did that for the size matchup because their wide receiver is 6-4, 235, and Ike is our biggest corner," LeBeau said. "We matched him, and Ike did a great job."
Saints wide receiver Marques Colston falls into that same category.
He's 6-4, 225 pounds, and leads a diverse corps of receivers with 40 catches and 452 receiving yards. But Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the Super Bowl XLIV MVP, does such a good job of distributing the ball that it is difficult for a defense to concentrate on just one receiver.
"Drew Brees knows where he wants to go," said Taylor, who was born and raised in New Orleans and went to college at Louisiana-Lafayette. "All six of his receivers are on the same page 98 percent of the time. He knows where he wants to go, regardless what defense you're in."
After using Taylor to shadow the other team's top receiver many times during the past two seasons, the Steelers did not plan to use him in that role this season, not after they struggled to defend the long pass in 2009.
But, after watching Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White catch 13 passes for 111 yards in the season opener, mostly against cornerback Bryant McFadden, LeBeau did not want Marshall to do the same thing. A week earlier, Marshall caught 10 passes for 127 yards against the Green Bay Packers, a game in which quarterback Chad Henne targeted him 17 times.
"I'm ready for it every week," Taylor said. "They told me during the season it's going to come, you just don't know when."
There was one other noticeable tactic, too. Taylor played mainly in press coverage against Marshall, lining against him at the line of scrimmage and not giving him much room to run routes.
"I've been doing that all year, all the time," Taylor said. "That's something I want to do. It just eliminates a lot of things they can do, like routes. There's only a certain amount of routes you can do -- a fade or a slant."
It appears the strategy isn't about to fade away any time soon.
First Published October 31, 2010 12:00 am