The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into week 15 and the jury is no longer out when it comes to the nature of this secondary. They are better than just good and they have proven that over the last couple of months. The question has now shifted from if they are good to just how good are they?
There are many numbers that will support an argument for them being elite, from the number of interceptions or turnovers but one area that really cements their place in the elite category is how well they have shut down top receivers recently.
The Steelers have faced many top receivers recently and they range anywhere from reliable veteran to proven superstar to rising star. This secondary has gone against the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Odell Beckham (twice), Cooper Kupp and Tyler Boyd over the last five weeks and the Steelers have done a great job at either limiting them or taking them away completely.
In five games, the four receivers listed above have been targeted a total of 36 times and have combined for just 15 receptions for 210 yards, one touchdown and one fumble. The four receivers have caught just 41.7-percent of their targets as the Steelers’ secondary has put the clamps on them.
Below are the final receiving totals for all four receivers listed above
Larry Fitzgerald (Week 14): 7 targets, 3 receptions, 20 yards, 0 TDs
Odell Beckham (Week 13): 6 targets, 3 receptions, 29 yards, 0 TDs
Tyler Boyd (Week 12): 9 targets, 5 receptions, 101 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble
Odell Beckham (Week 11): 10 targets, 4 receptions, 60 yards, 0 TDs
Cooper Kupp (Week 10): 4 targets, 0 catches, 0 yards, 0 TDs
Despite being the definition of consistency, Fitzgerald had a very inconsistent performance against the Steelers’ secondary on Sunday. It was the first time since 2017 that the veteran receiver recorded seven or more targets but was held to 20-yards or less. This is a feat that has only happened eight times in Fitzgerald’s career and the Steelers defense did their best to make him a non-factor.
It is a similar story down the list. Beckham came into this season with an abundance of hype but the Steelers took the air out of his sails in their two meetings this season. Beckham caught just 43.8-percent of his targets for 89 yards and did not get into the endzone.
Kupp came into his week 10 contest as one of the NFL’s top receivers and had just put up 225-receiving yards the week prior. He then came to Pittsburgh and got shut out across the board, failing to record a touchdown, yard or a catch.
Boyd had himself a game against the Steelers but he was also responsible for a huge fumble that may have cost his team a chance at victory. The Cincinnati Bengals’ receiver does deserve a bit of credit though as he is just one of two players and the only receiver to eclipse 100-receiving yards against the Steelers’ secondary this season.
Though not included on the list, it is hard to forget about the team’s earlier efforts to shut down Keenan Allen as well. Another top receiver and one who burned them in the past, the Steelers held Allen to just two catches for 33-yards on six targets.
It seems that the Steelers have been hell bent on the strategy to not get burned by a team’s top receiving option and the move has payed off. Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler have taken away opposing team’s number one and dared them to win with their secondary options. So far, teams are not having much luck in doing that.