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Meat Eater Matchup: Steelers at Panthers, Week 15

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Derrick Brown is massive. When he gets into a three-point stance and takes his alignment over the center or either guard, he takes up the full space. 

Like a predator anticipating his prey, Brown is seemingly always on the hunt. And he is this week's Classic Jurassic Meat-Eater Matchup.

Brown is the man in the middle of the Panthers players who the Steelers have to get after if they have any hope of winning this game. 

When he crouches and coils in his stance, he reminds me of a Yokozuna, or sumo grand champion. Brown has balance in motion, power driven from his ham hocks, with the ability to swim over the top and split a double team. Brown practically oozes run-stopping power with a wide base, and has arms like legs, and legs like people.

Standing 6-foot-5 and packing 320 run-stopping pounds on his backside, Brown can drop anchor and hold the point of attack. He can stand up to the power surge of two men trying to move him against his will from point A to B.

The lone caveat here is that occasionally, Brown will try to swim over the top of and try to split the double team down the middle. When he raises his arm to swim, he raises up slightly and becomes more vulnerable to the double team, and he can be caught mid-swim and moved.\

Speaking of the swim technique, Brown will use that on run downs when there is a slant or angle call by the defense. Brown is very quick to swim across the face of the center and get to his gap that way. 

Possessing a nice two-arm lockout, Brown quickly gets to the dominant-hand position and attains the power posture so necessary to holding the point in any run attack. Maintaining a low pad level, Brown will use a one-arm stab to lockout and maintain his run fit. Or, he can use that one-arm stab to ward off a back block and bubble over the top for runs away from him. 

He does this all the while maintaining square shoulders to the line of scrimmage. And for such a big meat-eater, he can run. 

Brown has registered 1 interception, 6 passes defensed, 1 sack, 51 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 6 hits on quarterbacks in 13 games. But the stats don't tell the complete story.   

When he's hunting quarterbacks, Brown uses the swim very effectively, throwing it so tight, so quickly, it's almost unstoppable in a one-on-one confrontation. But if there's a wall going your way as an offensive linemen, then the swim isn't nearly as effective.

In that instance, the gap to your inside is covered, and the pass protector responsible for Brown can play the outside shoulder and not worry about the swim because his inside gap is covered.

Where it can be problematic is when the Panthers run a twist-stunt using Brown as the penetrator, the man trying to hit the gap in between the side by side pass protectors. That's when the house of cards of pass pro starts falling apart, when the penetrator gets into the gap between the offensive linemen. 

You know how aggravating it is when you get something caught in between your teeth and you get a toothpick to get it out? That's what it's like when you get a dinosaur caught in between two offensive linemen on a twist-stunt. And there's no toothpick big enough to dig him out. Trust me on that one.

The Steelers need to match the run intensity that the Panthers will bring offensively by ramping up and recapturing their own run game effectiveness, and it starts with getting a hat on a hat, and sometimes, two hats on a hat when it comes to Brown.

Forget the toothpicks.

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