Megatron a colossal challenge for Steelers

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
6:00
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- It had to be a misprint, I thought, after finding online the box score from the only time the Pittsburgh Steelers played against Detroit Lions wide receiverCalvin Johnson.

One catch for two yards? Shoot, the player known as Megatron could triple that even playing blindfolded with both arms tied behind his back.

But the Steelers' media guide from 2010, which includes all box scores from the previous season, confirmed it.

Johnson
That Oct. 11, 2009 game, in which nine other Detroit receivers were more productive than Johnson, can be classified as one thing: an anomaly in the truest sense of the word.

Johnson, who visits Heinz Field on Sunday, has the second most receiving yards in NFL history (8,740) after his first 100 games.

He is averaging over 100 yards a game this season, and is second in the NFL in receiving yards (904) and tied for second in touchdown catches (nine).

Just as breathtaking as Johnson’s gaudy statistics are the physical skills that make him the best wide receiver on the planet by five football fields.

Johnson is listed at 6-5, 236 pounds, and he is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL. The seventh-year veteran also has hands of velcro given the number of catches he makes while being double- or even triple-teamed.

Mike Tomlin can lay on the hyperbole when it comes to the opposition as well as any coach. But Tomlin was anything but exaggerating on Tuesday when he said Johnson is one of the best players in the NFL, regardless of position.

Tomlin drove home his point a little later during his weekly news conference when he cut off a question about whether there are any similarities between Johnson and the Bengals’ A.J. Green, who after 10 weeks leads the NFL in receiving.

“There’s no comparison,” Tomlin said. “He’s a big dog. It’s young Randy Moss scary.”

Yikes.

Veteran cornerback Ike Taylor will almost certainly draw the assignment of shadowing Johnson wherever the latter goes Sunday. Taylor has a history of playing well against premier wide receivers, and the 11th-year veteran shut down Green and the Bears’ Brandon Marshall earlier this season.

Johnson is in a different league though, which means the Steelers are going to have to give Taylor plenty of help.

And cross every finger and toe they have when the Lions have the ball.

“We’ll do the best we can,” Tomlin said. “He’s a special player. We won’t try anything that hasn’t been tried.”

Which means the Steelers can’t expect to again limit Johnson to the kind of stat line that is associated with a third-string tight end.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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