Week 12: Key Matchups
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
Saturday November 27, 2010 11:44 PM
MENDENHALL vs. Posluszny
Rashard Mendenhall needs 189 yards to reach 1,000 yards for the second straight season. Based on Buffalo’s run defense this season — the Bills allow a league-high 163.5 yards per game — Mendenhall should be able to surpass 100 today. That’s something the Steelers’ third-year running back hasn’t done since rushing for 143 yards at Tampa Bay in Week 3.
One of the keys for Buffalo’s defense today will be the play of inside linebacker Paul Posluszny, who ranks eighth in the NFL with 88 tackles (60 solo). Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called Posluszny, the former Hopewell High School and Penn State star, “a sideline to sideline tackler who is very aware.”
The Buffalo defensive line must hold its own at the line of scrimmage and allow Posluszny to roam free and get clean shots at Mendenhall near the line of scrimmage.
TAYLOR vs. Johnson
Even though the Steelers rank 21st in passing defense at 239.1 yards pg, they rank fifth in fewest touchdown passes allowed at 11. Today, the Steelers face a wide receiver in Buffalo’s Steve Johnson who’s already caught nine TD passes, good for third in the NFL.
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor usually asks to guard the opponent’s best receiver regardless of where he lines up. That could be the case today since Taylor (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) has the speed and size to match up favorably against Johnson (6-2, 202).
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Despite all the passing yards the Steelers are allowing, Taylor remains their best cover corner. He’s also had some questionable calls go against him as twice in the past three weeks, he’s been flagged for pass interference. He also returned an interception 16 yards for an apparent TD vs. Oakland, only to have it called back when linebacker James Harrison was flagged for roughing the passer.
HARRISON vs. Bell
In a few weeks, the AFC Pro Bowl roster will be announced and there’s no reason to believe that James Harrison won’t be chosen for the fourth straight year. The Steelers’ star outside linebacker is having another monster season. He’s tied for third in the NFL with nine sacks, while forcing five fumbles and intercepting two passes.
And after being fined three times in the first five games for a total of $100,000 for what the NFL deemed flagrant hits, Harrison has managed to adjust his style a bit while still being productive. He’s gone five straight weeks without getting slapped for another fine.
For most of today’s game, it’ll be Bills left tackle Demetrius Bell who’s assigned to block Harrison. Bell is an unheralded third-year pro who, as he makes his 16th pro start, will have his hands full against one the league’s toughest defenders.