Covering Antonio Brown might be the toughest assignment in the NFL these days.
The All-Pro receiver has torched just about every team in the league over the last few years, and his 1,509 receiving yards this season are nearly 300 yards more than any other player in the game.
Ravens veteran cornerback Brandon Carr was one of the players tasked with trying to slow down Brown Sunday night at Heinz Field, and he struggled to keep up with the dynamic receiver. Brown caught five passes for 117 yards when Carr was in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus, including a 34-yard strike on Pittsburgh's final drive to set up the game-winning field goal.
After the 39-38 loss, the media asked Carr whether he was on an island in coverage or had safety help over the top.
"I've been on an island for 10 years," the veteran cornerback said. "Sometimes you can't get them all. You have to bounce back."
In Baltimore's first game without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, the Ravens opted to keep Carr and rookie Marlon Humphrey on their typical sides of the field. Brown moves all over, so the Ravens went with the approach of playing sides rather than having one of the corners shadow him.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked Monday about whether they considered having Humphrey shadow Brown.
"There's always a discussion of that, but that's not our gameplan," Harbaugh said. "Then we have to lock into man coverage at that point and Ben knows you're doing that. Those are kind of easy fixes from an outside perspective, but we're playing multiple defenses. We're trying to keep them off balance. That doesn't really work when you start chasing a receiver all over the field. It exposes your coverage."
It looked like Carr was left in several one-on-one situations against Brown, who finished the game with 213 receiving yards. Corners inevitably get left in single coverage at times, particularly on blitz calls, and Roethlisberger did a great job of exploiting mismatches he saw.
"You can't just play the whole game in the same coverage," Harbaugh said. "You have to mix it up a bit. That's just the way the game gets played out."
Brown was asked after the game whether he was surprised with how Baltimore defended him.
"With the Ravens, they love their guys," Brown said. "I know they were going to try to blitz us and play us one-high [safety]. And we were able to attack those guys in that situation."
Brown also pointed to the no-huddle offense as part of the reason for their success. Roethlisberger is a veteran quarterback who has the freedom to make calls at the line of scrimmage, and he seems to play his best in late-game situations.
The Steelers put the game in his hands and let him throw 66 times, and he responded by throwing for 506 yards.
"We felt like we had the game in hand and they do what they do best – two-minute drives, and they stung us," Carr said. "Good throws. One of the best in the game, quarterback and receiver. You want those plays back, but you have to move on. We learn from it and get ready for next week."
Carr has played well for much of the year after signing with the Ravens this offseason. He's continued his streak of durability – starting every game of his NFL career – and he's held up well against some talented receivers.
Brown got the better of him and the Ravens Sunday night, and his focus now is bouncing back during the final three games of the regular season.
"It was a 60-minute battle and it hurts," Carr said. "We have to do our part – get back to being that stingy defense prior to the last few weeks."
Check out all the best photos from Heinz Field as the Ravens battle the Steelers on Sunday Night Football.