THURSDAY’S POST-PRACTICE BUZZ
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Injuries have shuffled the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary once again, as starting cornerback Ike Taylor still can’t practice due to a foot fracture and replacement Cortez Allen likely is out with a groin injury.
That means second-year players Curtis Brown and DeMarcus Van Dyke and first-year pro Josh Victorian have moved up in the rotation this week. First-year starter Keenan Lewis, in his fourth NFL season, appears able to play this week despite a hip injury.
“Hopefully, we’ve got some quality depth there, but it’s a challenge for us,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “One thing’s for sure, they’re not going to cancel the game.
“So, we’ll have a good plan for it, and they’ll have to step in there and pick it up. … So, we know we’ve got a challenge, but I feel like those young guys are going to make a good account of themselves.”
LeBeau basically said that it’s all hands on deck for the Steelers cornerbacks this week, and whichever ones get playing time they’ll benefit from the excellent communication skills of safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu.
That experience means everything to a guy like Victorian, who was on the Steelers practice squad one day, released the next, then signed to the 53-man roster and eventually thrust into a major role in last week’s game.
“It was a roller-coaster, huh?” Victorian said. “That’s just the business side. One week you can be Joe Blow, and the next day everybody knows you. So, you have to keep focused and keep going. One day, you can be at home, and then you get the call to come in. So, you have to be ready all the time.
“It’s the same way with being a corner. In this league, you have to have a short memory, because you’re going to get beat. You just have to put it out of your memory and keep going. Most guys in this league are (big), so you need to be physical with them. I feel like that can help me against the big guys in Dallas.”
If Allen cannot play, Brown likely will start opposite Lewis, who returned to practice Thursday after missing the previous day. And Victorian will play in passing situations. However, Brown could move into the slot with Victorian playing on the outside.
“To play corner, not only on this team, but in this league you need to have confidence,” Victorian said. “For me, confidence has been building in me from a young age, mostly because I wasn’t as big as everybody else. So, I think I’m pretty confident now. And I’m ready to play on this big stage in Dallas.”
Despite being a bit hobbled this week, Lewis has worked hard to get on the field.
“This is a big game for both teams, so the intensity definitely will pick up this week,” Lewis said. “That means my game has to pick up, too. So, I’m going to practice as much as I can, and I’ll be ready to go on Sunday. At this point in the season, Week 15, nobody’s completely healthy on any team.
“So, you’re definitely going to be feeling it. But you have to fight through it. We’ll have some young guys in there, too, and last week was a tough task for them. But they have more game experience now, and that’s going to help them for the future. Every game won’t be perfect, but you need to have a short memory in this league and be ready to get back out there the next week.”
Special teams play needs upgraded
Another player who has continued to get healthy with each passing week is wideout-return man Antonio Brown.
“Special teams definitely is an area where we all need to improve. The biggest thing for us on special teams is to clean up the penalties. Right now, that’s setting us back in our return game on both punts and kickoffs.
“That’s held us back all year. Last week, we had a big return that would have been a splash play, but there was a penalty that put us back on the 6. Then, there was a turnover, so penalties have really hurt us all season.”
Despite playing on the road, the Steelers will wear black jerseys at Dallas. The Cowboys generally wear white jerseys whether they’re home or on the road.
Along with Lewis (hip), wideout Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder) and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) participated in a full practice Thursday for the Steelers. It was the second straight day for Woodley, who said he will play Sunday. … Allen (groin), OLB James Harrison (illness) and Polamalu (not injury related) did not practice for the second straight day, while OT Mike Adams (ankle), OG Willie Colon (knee surgery) and Taylor (ankle) have been ruled out.
For the Cowboys, OG Ryan Cook (knee), RB Felix Jones (knee) and OT Tyron Smith (ankle) practiced for a second straight day, while WR Dez Bryant (finger), CB Morris Claiborne (concussion), OG Nate Livings (concussion), RB DeMarco Murray (foot) and safety Charlie Peprah (foot) were limited. … NT Jay Ratliff (groin) and OLB DeMarcus Ware (elbow) did not practice Thursday.