So far during his career, Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-year wide receiver Antonio Brown has performed well when covered by Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. In fact, as I pointed out back in May when Haden signed a new five-year contract extension, Brown seems to be the Florida product’s kryptonite.
Dating back to 2010, Brown has eight catches for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 12 targets against Haden in a span of four games. On Thursday, Browns head coach Mike Pettine acknowledged Haden’s past problems covering Brown because of his shiftiness.
“Yeah, it’s funny with corners,” Pettine said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Every corner kind of has their style that’s basically like Kryptonite to them.”
It’s been a forgone conclusion that Haden would be the one to cover Brown all game once again in the 2014 regular season opener at Heinz Field this Sunday, but Pettine indicated Thursday that they intend to mix it up some.
“I’m never a fan of giving an offense a steady diet of the same matchups and same types of coverages,” Pettine said. “I just think it goes back to offensive coordinators are pretty good, because they gather information throughout the game. If you settle into a constant, they’ll adjust accordingly.
“Part of being a good defense is mixing things up and trying to stay a step ahead.”
When Haden is not covering Brown on Sunday, that job will likely fall on the shoulders of fellow cornerback Buster Skrine, who the Browns drafted in the fifth-round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga,
Outside of not giving up any touchdowns, Skrine really hasn’t faired much better against Brown than Haden has during his career. He’s allowed three catches for 38 yards on the three passes thrown his direction to Brown in previous games.
On top of it all, Skrine is currently battling through a thumb injury that forced him to miss the Browns last three preseason games. He’ll reportedly wear a cast on his surgically repaired right thumb in Pittsburgh on Sunday and claims that it won’t limit him any.
Regardless of who covers Brown on Sunday, the Steelers former sixth-round draft pick has always played well against the Browns as evidenced by his 32 catches for 494 yards and three touchdowns. Eight of those catches have also gone for 20 yards or more.