Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful but it is also the official kick off to holiday season and that means it is time to be greedy. Grab two servings of food, grab an extra slice of pie, place one more regrettable bet, just be greedy.
On a similar tune, the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially their offense headed into Thanksgiving very grateful for their first-class defense but just like the scenarios I echoed earlier, it’s time for this conservative offense to get greedy. They can start being greedy quite literally this Sunday by targeting Cleveland Browns’ cornerback Greedy Williams.
While that may sound absurd, as Williams is a highly touted rookie cornerback, there is a method to this madness based off of experience. Williams struggled last time these two teams met, as he was targeted seven times and allowed four catches for 46 yards while also being called for a 38-yard pass interference penalty. Greedy really had a tough time containing the Steelers’ speed and quickness last time around and there is a prime opportunity to exploit his shortcomings this Sunday.
Williams is locked up with Johnny Holton and while the Steelers’ receiver has had his difficulties catching the football this season, his speed and quickness are unquestionable. Holton has Williams slipping right off the snap, as his speed leaves the Browns’ cornerback in an awkward spot as he tries to transition from a backpedal into a full-on chase down the sideline. Williams is beat on this play and a pass interference call saves a touchdown from staining his record.
The next receiver to win one over Williams was James Washington and he beats the Browns’ cornerback with a nifty out route on the play above. Washington really sells this route with an inside step and a dramatic head fake, leaving him open for big catch downfield.
Williams struggled defending the quick release of Holton and route running ability of Washington. Now, if only there was a Steelers’ receiver that specialized in both these areas?
Oh wait, there is a receiver that has built his game around having a quick release and nifty footwork and his name is Diontae Johnson. The rookie wide receiver is a tremendously quick and shifty route runner and even went up against Williams a few times in their previous meeting.
An early rep that sees Johnson go up against Williams and right away he puts the cornerback on notice with his footwork. The Steelers’ receiver gets a clean inside release and tries to get back outside but Williams gets away with a helmet grab, making this a bit more difficult. That does not alter Johnson too much as he eventually gets the separation he is seeking as he cuts towards the sideline. The ball does not come his way but the message was delivered to the Browns’ cornerback.
Here is another important three play sequence that saw the two rookies go head to head again. The first two plays has Johnson running an out route. Williams gives no cushion on the first play and Johnson gets a smooth release and more than enough separation. On the second play, the rookie cornerback gives more of a cushion but he is still beat to the sideline for a 13-yard completion. Offensive coordinator Keith Butler dials up the home run on the third play, sending Johnson on an out and up route hoping to catch Williams off guard. While it looks like there is a shot for Mason Rudolph to put one over the top, he is sacked before he has the chance. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers come back to this on Sunday.
Starting back off where it began, one final area where Williams can be exploited is with speed. Holton gave the cornerback a hard time two and a half weeks ago with his long speed and if the Steelers attempt to take a vertical shot at two, they would be best advised to do it on Williams’ side of the field. Perhaps Deon Cain would be best served for this as he does have some credible speed.
The Steelers should have learned from their last meeting with the Browns that while the right side of the field belongs to Denzel Ward, the left side of the field is much more vulnerable. There will be more than a few opportunities to take with Williams in coverage, now it is just up to the Steelers to get greedy.