In the world of meat-eaters, there are wide variances of body types, athleticism and playing styles, just like in the days of old when dinosaurs roamed this earth. This week's Classic Jurassic Meat-eater Matchup brings a "raptor-like" quality to the battle of the trenches with a high-motor, a long wingspan and ferocious intensity. His name is Maxx Crosby, and he's going to bring his A-game to Acrisure Stadium, you can be sure (pun intended).
Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at a rather svelte 255-pounds, Crosby is a high-intensity fire cracker of a defensive player. He's got a lot of pop in his hands and follows with his body. Coming into this game, Crosby, in his 4th season, has recorded 51 solo (78 overall) tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 11.5 sacks. He is equally capable in quarterback hunting as he is in hunting down those running with the pigskin.
Crosby will lock horns with Steelers right tackle Chuks Okorafor, which makes for a hugely interesting and combustible confrontation. Crosby has great athleticism. Okorafor is a very athletic offensive tackle.
Crosby is a good hand fighter, and so is Chuks. Where Okorafor has a decided advantage is in his core strength. Crosby tends to struggle once he gets locked up body on body with a huge predator on the hunt.
And Chuks is that predator. Okorafor has the ham hock ligamentation and core strength to lock in, lock down and finish his opponent on man-blocking schematic opportunities.
And this is where Chuks can shine. He needs to make the battle a phone booth battle, engage Crosby in close–quarter-combat, and not let Crosby take it to the open fields of running the arc on the pass rush.
Crosby plays the end man on the line, even lining up as a wide 9 defensive end, taking a position a body or two outside of the offensive tackle. Traps run at Crosby have a chance at success, because he doesn't "trap the trapper," or close the trap to the degree of other defensive ends. Sometimes he will gamble, and even attempt to run around the trapper to make a play, but that will also take him out of the play if he's wrong.
Where Crosby can make life miserable is getting a jump on the snap and trapping the hands of Okorafor. Time and again, Crosby will rush up field, try to knock down the hands of the offensive tackle with his long arms, and follow up by throwing an uppercut or work a wrestling slide-by, where the uppercut becomes a hook. The pass rusher throwing it will hook the back of Okorafor's outside arm and pull it by him so that Crosby can get the outside arm/shoulder and get past it.
At the snap at the point of attack, Crosby will raise up, lock out with both arms, throw a quick pop to his opponent's shoulders and use his feet and quickness to get off the block.
Again, if Chuks can lock onto Crosby, breaking down Crosby's arm lockout, his superior size and strength should give him an edge at the aforementioned point of attack.
Crosby has a lanky type of strength and uses it to his advantage. The key for Okorafor is to engage Crosby in close quarter combat at every opportunity and use his superior power and excellent lower body strength to wear down Crosby.
If the Steelers are to upend and send the Raiders back to Vegas with a loss on Christmas Eve, it'll start in the trenches, and it will end in the trenches.
And this is one of the most pivotal battles will be fought in those trenches in the frigid air of Acrisure Stadium. Chuks Okorafor can play Grinch and send Maxx Crosby back home with a couple chunks of coal in his stocking.
Merry Christmas everybody! Remember the reason for the season!