It was the sort of thing every defensive back likes to see.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown “confronted” (to use the term of veteran Pittsburgh Post-Gazette football writer Ed Bouchette) offensive coordinator Todd Haley on the sidelines of the Pittburgh Steelers’ game last Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
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Brown reportedly was miffed at the lack of passes being directed to him. Haley’s relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger already has been characterized as frayed, to be polite about it, and the conclusion is that an 0-2 team with a pitiable offense has major issues among key individuals, which does happen with teams that are rarely 0-2.
“We're all frustrated,” Roethlisberger acknowledged. “It's not fun to lose football games.”
(Maybe it’s just a Steelers thing. Ex-Steeler wideout Mike Wallace was mad about having only one catch in his first game as a Miami Dolphin, and that was in a win.)
Brown was signed to a reported six-year deal worth potentially $43 million this offseason. He is the clear No. 1 wideout on a team that had 27 passing touchdowns last season.
The concern this week for the Bears secondary, besides the lack of a pass rush forcing quarterbacks to throw the ball before they want to, is the health of cornerback Charles Tillman’s knee, injured in the win over Minnesota. Tillman is the unquestioned top man-to-man defender and he is routinely matched up against opponents’ No. 1 receivers -- in this case Brown -- whether they are happy or not.
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If not Tillman, Zackary Bowman would move in as the starter. Bowman has been a serviceable backup but Tillman has two interceptions through two games and ranks No. 1 in the NFL for his career in forced fumbles (39).
“’Peanut’ is a guy who is an all-around player,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “He’s going to do what he needs to do in the run game, he’s going to support the run, he’s going to tackle, he’s going to force fumbles, and he’s going to compete in the passing game, too.”
The Steelers, largely because of zero takeaways through two games, are 31st in the NFL in turnover ratio (minus-4). The Bears, with Tillman, are tied for third in the NFL with six takeaways.
The Steelers also are expected to utilize more no-huddle offense vs. the Bears, something that Roethlisberger has lobbied for and is effective when using.
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“We see no-huddle in practice,” Tucker said. “We’ve seen it before in games. It’s really a communication deal. They have tempo but we have tempo also. It’s going to be a good test for us.”