Men lie, women lie, numbers stay the same. So what do the numbers say about Carolina’s chances of stopping Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster?
Carolina Panthers cornerbacks James Bradberry and Donte Jackson were impressive against Tampa Bay’s wide receivers but won’t be able to replicate that against arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver tandem.
▪ Since JuJu Smith-Schuster’s coming out party in Week 8 last season, he and Antonio Brown have never both been held to under 100 receiving yards and zero touchdowns in a single game.
▪ Carolina’s secondary allowed a 100-yard receiver in two of its three matchups against teams with two receivers ranked in the top-25 in the NFL in receiving yards — New York’s Odell Beckham, Jr. and Cincinnati’s Tyler Boyd. Brown and Smith-Schuster are 21st and 15th in the league in receiving yards, respectively.
▪ Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to set new career-highs in passing yards and attempts this season — most of which go to Brown and Smith-Schuster. They’ve been the intended target on 49 percent of Roethlisberger’s targets on a team that features five players with at least 300 receiving yards. Translation: Brown and Smith-Schuster get plenty of opportunities on a team that loves to throw the ball.
This ain’t it, chief
▪ Neither Brown nor Smith-Schuster has eclipsed to 100-yard mark since Week 6, combining for 116 and 111 yards over their past two games, respectively.
▪ Although Boyd and Beckham, Jr. tallied more than 100 receiving yards against the Panthers, they’re the only two players to do so this season and the Panthers have held three of their past four opponents below their season average as far as passing yards per game.
▪ The Panthers’ secondary has only allowed three receptions to wide receivers over their past four games in which the ball traveled 20 or more yards through the air. Brown and Smith-Schuster have combined for 11 such plays this season.
There’s a common denominator among Brown and Smith-Schuster’s past two games — the effectiveness of running back James Conner, who’s rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his past four games. The Steelers feature so many offense weapons that while it’s not likely all of them hurt you, it’s very unlikely you’ll shut all of them down — although the Baltimore Ravens managed to keep Brown and Smith-Schuster under 100 yards and hold Conner to 19 rushing yards in their Week 4 victory.
Carolina did just hold Tampa Bay — the NFL’s top-ranked offense — to a season-low 301 yards, but playing on the road on a short week, expect at least one of Pittsburgh’s receivers to put up big numbers Thursday.
Marcel Louis-Jacques: @Marcel_LJ