While a Johnny Manziel-specific package will be the headline-driving speculation heading in to Week 1, one game planning item is all but confirmed as Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden is expected to blanket Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown the entire game, regardless of formation.
Tomlin says he expects Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden to cover Antonio Brown exclusively.
Haden did the same when the Steelers and Browns met in Week 12 last season (after missing the team’s first contest with an injury), and Brown to catch 5-of-9 targets for 80 yards and one touchdown—easily one of his worst outings of the season. Brown was shadowed by Joe Haden all game, but beat him deep for a 41-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He had a team-high 10 targets and was one of the few receivers to get in the end-zone against Haden this season. Haden has gone on record, calling Brown one of the toughest receivers he has covered.
On the other side of the field will be first-round cornerback Justin Gilbert. The ninth-overall pick, coming off of a suspect final two weeks of the preseason, will be tasked with sticking on the field-stretching Markus Wheaton. Both corners could have their work cut out for them if the Browns’ front seven does not force Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make throws quicker than he would like.