I know how much everybody loves when we use a graphic from Pro Football Focus as the impetus for an article, so with that in mind, I have another one to present to you today, but it ties into a broader theme regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers that we have been discussing recently—oh, and it involves the New England Patriots, who are apparently supposed to be the Steelers’ sole focus this offseason.
The graphic posted was intended to illustrate just how frequently Patriots quarterback Tom Brady picked on Falcons rookie cornerback Jalen Collins in the Super Bowl last season, with PFF marking him as having been targeted a whopping 14 times, giving up 10 receptions on those targets for 98 yards and a touchdown.
The graphic conveniently includes the most-targeted defender by Brady in all 15 games that he played last season, and every one of those numbers was the high mark. Only one other defender had been targeted 10 or more times, and only two relinquished at least 90 yards. Collins was the only player among the most-targeted defenders to give up multiple scores.
Coincidentally, the Steelers just so happened to play the Patriots with Brady twice last season, meaning they make their way onto the graphic on two occasions, and it is significant to note that on both occasions, it was an inside linebacker whom Brady targeted most-frequently, at least based on PFF’s charting, which, if you’ve been following lately, you may want to note is clearly much more liberal than we are when designated a player as having been targeted on a play.
As you might imagine, the majority of the most-targeted defenders on the list are cornerbacks, but there are a couple of exceptions. Even so, the Steelers games stick out. During the regular-season contest, the site has Brady targeting Lawrence Timmons nine times, and Ryan Shazier was targeted eight times in the playoff matchup.
Timmons gave up eight receptions on those nine targets for 68 yards and a touchdown, which is neither good nor terrible. Shazier allowed five receptions on eight targets for just 27 yards. He did not record an interception, but he did in the four games prior to that one.
To see in a graphic that the Steelers featured their inside linebackers as the most-targeted should not be a significant surprise if you have been following some of our recent articles, in which we have discussed the fact that the coverage between the hash marks is a bigger concern than on the boundary.
Timmons may have departed in free agency, but that doesn’t exactly improve the situation with Vince Williams filling his shoes. Alex Kozora wrote yesterday about the Steelers’ failure to be able to address the dime safety role with satisfaction, so it will be significant to follow how they try to go about defending the middle of the field this season.
No cornerback was more picked on by Tom Brady than Falcons CB Jalen Collins in the Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/ZvkysaH90U
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 9, 2017