Steelers wideouts face challenge against Legion of Boom


PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers have arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL.

Antonio Brown’s 79 receptions and 1,141 receiving yards rank second in the league to only the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones, who has 89 catches for 1,189 yards. Brown also has a league-leading 1,276 all-purpose yards.

Martavis Bryant is second in the NFL in yards per reception with a 20.0 average, trailing only the San Francisco 49ers’ Torrey Smith (21.2). Bryant’s 88-yard reception against the Arizona Cardinals is the longest in the league this season.

On Sunday, the Steelers visit Seattle and Brown and Bryant will be matched up against the Seahawks’ celebrated Legion of Boom secondary. Brown and Bryant will try to keep their impressive seasons going against cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Cary Williams and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

The Seahawks are second in the league with 207.2 yards passing allowed a game and seventh with an average of 6.4 yards per pass.

Brown, though, is downplaying the likelihood of going head-to-head against Sherman for much of the game.

“Individual matchups really mean nothing,” Brown said. “I know each week I’m going to get the other team’s best guy. It’s all about me being in good position and being my best. Obviously, he’s a great cornerback. It should be a great matchup.

“That’s the NFL. Guys want to compete. They want to compete against the best guys. Richard Sherman is one of the top guys at the corner position. I’m one of the top guys at the receiver position. Those are the kind of matchups you want.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator before taking over in Pittsburgh in 2007. So he can appreciate Sherman’s talent and how difficult of a matchup he can be for even a talented receiver like Brown.

“Richard Sherman is quite frankly one of the best in the business,” Tomlin said. “He is good on the line of scrimmage. He is long. He is combative.

“But I think that’s just a portion of his game. I’ve been really impressed as I have studied him in preparation for this game for his above the neck game, the things that he sees and understands about route combinations and the things he understands about formations and splits. All of that is very evident in his production and comes out in his play.”

The good news for the Steelers is that starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healthy again after contending with knee and foot injuries.

Brown has been nearly unstoppable in the six games in which Roethlisberger has played with 62 catches for 898 yards and all five of his touchdowns. In the four games without Roethlisberger, Brown has 17 receptions for 225 yards.

Bryant, meanwhile, is having a strong second season despite sitting out the first five games because of an NFL-imposed drug suspension and a knee injury. He has 22 catches for 440 yards and five touchdowns in five games.

The Steelers expect to see more production from Bryant in the season’s homestretch.

“Condition-wise I think he’s getting back,” wide receivers coach Richard Mann said. “As far as the offense is concerned, he’s been on a little roller coaster but he’s made a lot of big plays. He’s had plays he should have made that he didn’t.

“These last six games, those plays he didn’t make, I expect him to make them every time. He’s capable of doing it. We all know it, including him.”

Bryant is looking forward to facing the Legion of Boom.

“It should be a good matchup, a good ballgame,” Bryant said. “To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and their defensive backs are the best.”

Notes: LB Ryan Shazier (knee) and CB Brandon Boykin (ankle) did not practice Thursday. . The Steelers are 1-6 at Seattle, the lone win coming in 1984 when the Seahawks played their home games at the Kingdome.

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