Much of the talk within the division this off season was focused on the Cleveland Browns’ addition of Odell Beckham. After seeing Beckham once every four years, the Pittsburgh Steelers would now be seeing one of the NFL’s most dangerous receivers twice a year. Mike Tomlin was asked how his team will deal with Beckham earlier this offseason and that is when he responded with a yawn before downplaying the move, stating that the Steelers see great players on a weekly basis.
Well, Beckham has now played the Steelers twice this season and his numbers have not been very inspiring. In two games against Tomlin’s team, the Browns’ receiver recorded seven catches, 89 yards and zero touchdowns on 16 targets.
The Steelers have done a great job at limiting Beckham this season, especially last Sunday. According to Next Gen Stats, the struggling Browns’ receiver averaged just 1.7 yards of separation last Sunday, a season low. It took a complete effort from the secondary but the Steelers did more than just limit Beckham last Sunday, they completely blanketed him.
Let’s get these out of the way early. Beckham recorded three catches Sunday but just one came with man coverage on him. On his first two catches, the Browns’ receiver simply ran a short curl route and found a soft spot in the zone.
Now onto the good stuff.
Beckham vs Steven Nelson
The rematch everyone has been waiting for. Odell Beckham vs Steven Nelson. While Beckham made a big play on Nelson in the first matchup, the Steelers’ cornerback silenced him the rest of the way. The two did not match up quite as often on Sunday and when they did cross paths, the results were very uneventful. Beckham was not targeted when covered by Nelson on Sunday and the cornerback did a good job mirroring the Browns’ receiver when they were matched up one on one.
Beckham vs Joe Haden
Beckham did make one catch with Joe Haden in coverage but he failed to make much noise outside of that. Haden did a pretty exceptional job when matched up with Beckham and the play above might be my favorite example. Watch how Haden keeps up with Beckham as he carries him up field. Beckham is one of the quicker wide receivers in the NFL and Haden, now a 30-year old cornerback had no problem keeping this foot race close. Even as Beckham cuts towards the corner, Haden is right there.
Now that all the one on one matchups are out of the way, it’s time to take at look at how the Steelers really incorporated an all hands-on deck approach to stop Beckham.
First up is Haden and Cam Sutton. Both did a great job at taking away this deep shot between Beckham and Baker Mayfield. Steelers are in cover three and watch how quickly Sutton is able to drop in coverage and take away Beckham’s deep route. The Steelers have done a great job at disguising their coverages since incorporating Sutton into their dime packages and together him and Haden do a perfect job on the play above. Mayfield should feel lucky that this pass was not intercepted as Sutton is in perfect position to pick this pass off.
The Browns moved Beckham all over the field on Sunday and when he was aligned in the slot, it was typically Mike Hilton who was responsible for him. This play occurs right before the half and Mayfield is desperately trying to get his team in range for a field goal. Hilton plays Beckham to the inside, knowing that he has Terrell Edmunds to help over the top. Beckham sees this as well and knows that his best chance is to go towards the sideline but Edmunds is right there to cut this one off. With Hilton underneath and Edmunds over top, there is nowhere for Mayfield to put this ball and the pass falls incomplete.
Beckham is once again inside and here is another example of how great the Steelers’ dime package has been with Sutton on the field. Originally Beckham is in Hilton’s vicinity but once he cuts inside, he is passed off to Sutton. Neither Sutton nor Hilton break away from their areas as they pass off their respective receivers just as the play was drawn up. The perfect touch on this play is Minkah Fitzpatrick who sees this all unfolding in front of him. Once Beckham cuts in, Fitzpatrick is right there to back up Sutton.
The Browns’ receiver had a chance to stick it to Tomlin and the Steelers last Sunday but his performance was very flat and boring to the casual viewer. On the other hand, the Steelers’ game plan to stop him was anything but boring. Every player in the secondary played a part in defending Beckham and every last one of them did a sound job executing their duties. Credit must also be given to the front seven as their constant pressure on Mayfield made it very difficult for him to scan downfield. As Tomlin likes to say, the standard is the standard and the Steelers held true to that standard by eliminating Beckham last Sunday.