Steelers banged up at cornerback

December 11, 2012
Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander catches a touchdown pass in front of Steelers defensive back Josh Victorian Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have several injuries in the defensive backfield. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – The doghouse in which Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin placed second-year cornerback Curtis Brown better have a backdoor.

Tomlin said Tuesday that cornerbacks Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis each suffered hip flexor injuries in Pittsburgh’s 34-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers and could be questionable to play when the Steelers (7-6) travel to Dallas (7-6) for a critical game Sunday for both teams.

Making matters worse, Allen was only pushed into the starting lineup because of a lower leg stress fracture suffered by Ike Tayor two weeks ago in a win at Baltimore.

Brown, who moved up to the nickel cornerback spot previously manned by Allen, had a tough game against the Chargers, eventually getting pulled in the third quarter in favor of Josh Victorian, a player the Steelers had activated off their practice squad before the game.

“More than anything, this is about it being an awesome opportunity for him to show that he’s capable, to show his preparedness, to deliver for our team,” Tomlin of Brown. “Not the results that we were looking for last time out for him, but you could say that about all of us. Of course, we don’t live in our fears, we live in our hopes. ... He has an opportunity to respond to a less than ideal performance the last time out.”

Taylor, who had his streak of 135 consecutive games played dating to 2004 broken against the Chargers, was wearing a walking boot Tuesday and said he’s doing everything he can to get back on the field. He also is trying to be supportive of his teammates under difficult circumstances.

“I just told him stuff happens,” Taylor said of Brown. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. There are going to be days like that. No matter how good you feel you are, there are those kind of days sometimes. You’ve got to learn from it, shake it off and bounce back.”

The entire Steelers secondary struggled without Taylor. The NFL’s top-rated pass defense allowed three touchdown passes – its most since a Week 3 loss at Oakland – and 200 passing yards. The yardage total broke a string of seven consecutive games in which the Steelers had given up 177 passing yards or fewer. That came after Allen and Brown had solid games against Baltimore after Taylor was injured on the game’s second play.

“Those are the same guys whose praises we were singing last week,” said free safety Ryan Clark. “Now you want me to bash those guys? I have full confidence they can get the job done.

“Do we miss Ike? Is Ike a wonderful player for us? Yeah. I’m not going to diminish what he’s done for this team. But the guys who have got to step in. We believe in them.”

The secondary will face a tough task in shutting down Dallas’ passing attack. The Cowboys rank third in the NFL in passing yards per game at 292, though top wide receiver Dez Bryant could be sidelined this week with a broken finger suffered Sunday in a 20-19 win at Cincinnati.

Taylor, meanwhile, hopes to be back on the field in two weeks, when the Steelers host Cincinnati – a game the Pittsburgh might need to win to make the playoffs.

“It’s more of a healing process,” Taylor said. “It’s about the bone healing. Some people heal faster than others. Hopefully, I can speed the process up.”

Odds and end zones

Tomlin said guard Willie Colon had surgery Monday to repair his injured left knee and will be out several weeks. The Steelers will look at moving right guard Ramon Foster to left guard and inserting rookie first-round draft pick David DeCastro at right guard. ... Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) is expected to play against Dallas after missing two games. ... In addition to Taylor, right tackle Mike Adams (ankle) will be out for the third consecutive week.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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