Steelers to field thin secondary at Dallas
By Alan Robinson
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Chargers receiver Danario Alexander catches a touchdown pass as the Steelers' Josh Victorian defends during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, at Heinz Field
Steelers cornerbacks coverage statistics (completions/times targeted):
Ike Taylor 30/68 445 yards 5 TDs
Keenan Lewis 46/91 511 yards 2 TDs
Cortez Allen 32/56 327 yards 1 TD
Curtis Brown 9/12 116 yards 1 TD
Josh Victorian 1/2 15 yards 1 TD
Source: Pro Football Focus
Josh Victorian went from being on the street to covering the streak in a few days‘ time.
It doesn‘t sound easy, and it wasn‘t.
The Steelers cornerback was on the practice squad, then was released. A week later he was brought back and added to the 53-man roster. Then on the second NFL pass he defended, Chargers receiver Danario Alexander went high above him Sunday for a touchdown.
Just like that, Victorian — who was with four teams before getting into a game — went from being a mostly anonymous, undrafted free agent from Louisiana Tech to being the subject of intense scrutiny.
“A roller coaster, huh?” he said Thursday while contemplating his possible matchups Sunday against the receiver-deep Dallas Cowboys. “One week you can be Joe Blow, and then tomorrow everyone knows you. One day you can be at home, and they give you a call and you have to play on Sunday.”
Rarely have the Steelers (7-6) gone into such an important late-season game as thin at such a vital position as they will Sunday.
Ike Taylor, their top cover corner, is expected to miss another couple of games with a fractured ankle. Cortez Allen (groin), normally the nickel back and Taylor‘s replacement against the Chargers, hasn‘t practiced this week.
If Allen can‘t play, Curtis Brown will start. In the nickel package, Victorian goes outside and Brown slides into the nickel back role.
“It‘s not a surprise that these guys will be taking a significant amount if snaps,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said, noting the injuries all teams endure. “Hopefully they‘ll be prepared and answer the challenge.”
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers took advantage of the inexperience on the NFL‘s top-ranked pass defense. Rivers was 6 of 6 for 84 yards while throwing against Brown, 6 of 7 for 46 yards against Allen and 1 of 2 for 15 yards and a touchdown against Victorian. He beat Lewis only three times in nine attempts for 10 yards.
“Last week it was a tough task for us, but this week, with game experience, you‘re going to get better,” Lewis said. “Those guys are very talented, and they‘re ready for the challenge. You‘ve got to have a short-term memory in this league. Every game isn‘t going to be perfect.”
Here‘s that challenge: Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has 11 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in the past six games and averages a league-best 347.3 yards passing at home.
The Cowboys also have two productive receiving targets in Dez Bryant (75 catches for 1,028 yards), who is expected to play despite a broken index finger, and 6-foot-6 tight end Jason Witten, who has 92 receptions.
“I‘ve heard how talented he was, but I never watched him play — this is the first time I‘ve seen him play,” Polamalu said of Bryant. “His reputation is definitely worthy of his talent.”
Complicating matters, the Steelers‘ starting safeties aren‘t 100 percent. Polamalu isn‘t practicing as he heals from a calf injury, and Ryan Clark has a sore hip.
Asked how he expects the young corners to play, Polamalu said, “We‘ll find out afterward what my thoughts are. But it‘s just as critical that any position on our team plays well. It‘s no more important for the corners than it is for the outside ‘backers or the offensive line. The way we win games around here is that it‘s never really put on one position.”
The Steelers just hope one thin position doesn‘t lose it.