It’s not exactly an epiphany in terms of strategy, but it seems that, more than most years, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is focusing on trying to take away opposing offenses’ top weapons. For example, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams and his quarterback Aaron Rodgers, both talked after the Steelers played them that Pittsburgh’s game plan was clearly to take Adams away.
This week, they are playing the Seattle Seahawks, who have two big threats at wide receiver in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, making it more difficult to isolate just one player to try to eliminate from the game, so it will be interesting to see how they approach that in their coverage looks, but safety Terrell Edmunds confirmed earlier today that it is something they’re committed to doing this year.
“It’s really just putting an emphasis on it. Put an emphasis on taking out some of their key guys that everyone knows and just go out there and try to limit their capabilities”, he told reporters, “because great guys, they’re gonna make plays regardless, but just limit their big plays and keep on competing and make someone else have to beat you”.
So far, the Steelers have had to deal with key players such as Stefon Diggs, Darren Waller, and Noah Fant, as well as Adams. None of those players did a particularly significant amount of damage, though sometimes others—like Randall Cobb—exploited that emphasis to have a big game for themselves.
Adams was limited to six receptions on 11 targets for 64 yards, with a long reception of 21 yards, a pretty tame affair. Rodgers still looked for him, but could only get the ball to him half the time, yet it left Cobb open for a two-touchdown evening.
But any defensive gameplan requires 11 people to execute. Taking away one target is not just about what the secondary might be doing, but rather involves the cooperation of the front seven as well, as Edmunds understands.
“Everyone on the defense [is important] because we can’t do it without the d line getting up there to the quarterback”, he said, “and we can’t do it without the linebackers and everybody being on point, either. We all try to play a part together”.
This week, they will be facing a backup quarterback in Geno Smith, but they had better not underestimate him. He did look pretty good, for the most part, in relief of Russell Wilson in their last game when the latter got injured.
But whoever is under center is still going to have weapons like Metcalf and Lockett at his disposal, and as long as they get catchable balls, they’re more likely than not to come down with them. Good luck locking both of them down.