Steelers DBs won’t shy away from Peterson

September 25, 2013
Minnesota Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson, left, receives the ball from quarterback Christian Ponder during their football practice at the Grove Hotel in Watford, England, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. The Vikings play Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in a NFL football game at Wembley Stadium in London. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

PITTSBURGH – When it comes to playing against Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the Steelers don’t have a lot of history to reference.

The Steelers have only faced Peterson, who leads the NFL with 9,130 yards rushing since the start of the 2007 season, once before, that coming in a 27-17 Pittsburgh win in 2009.

One player who won’t forget about Peterson’s efforts in that game – 69 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and four receptions for 60 yards – is cornerback William Gay.

Gay made Peterson’s highlight film that day when the 6-1, 217-pound running back plowed over Gay after making a reception over the middle, slamming him to the ground and continuing merrily on his way.

As the Steelers (0-3) prepare to face the Vikings (0-3) in London Sunday looking for their first win, Gay hasn’t been shy about sharing the experience with his teammates.

“Not at all. It is what it is. He ran me slap over,” said Gay, who is 5-10, 190 pounds. “When I was in Arizona last year and we played them, I didn’t hesitate. You can’t do that against him. You can’t hesitate for a split second. He’s going to see that and run you slap over. I never made that mistake again.”

Gay’s message was not lost on his fellow defensive backs, particularly those who haven’t faced Peterson.

A big part of what the Steelers ask their defensive backs to do is help with run support, even though getting stuck in a situation where you’re facing a runaway train such as Peterson isn’t ideal.

“I’ve heard rumors about it,” said cornerback Cortez Allen of Peterson’s hit on Gay. “Our DBs like to hit. Sometimes in the course of the game, that happens. I’m going to get trucked at some point in my career. It’s part of the game. It’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. The only way you should be embarrassed about it, is if you cringe from that opportunity or shy away from it.”

Allen will be back this week after sitting out the past two games with a sprained ankle. His return could help bolster a defense that’s been a little softer than usual against the run.

This season, though they are allowing just 3.3 yards per carry, the Steelers have given up 70 yards rushing to Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, 75 to Cincinnati’s Benjarvus Green-Ellis and 87 to Chicago’s Matt Forte.

None of those running backs is in Peterson’s class in terms of power and speed.

“It’s a challenge. It’s a job for us,” said Allen, who at 6-1, 196 pounds brings more size to Pittsburgh’s defense on the edge. “But I feel like our defense likes it when we get challenges like that. It gives us a chance to test ourselves even more.”

Coming off a season in which he gained 2,097 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry, Peterson had a 78-yard touchdown run against Chicago on his first carry of this season. But he has gained just 203 yards on 68 carries since, an average of 3.0 per attempt.

The Steelers would like to see him continue those struggles. To do so, Gay and the rest of the Steelers defensive backs know they can’t fear going after Peterson.

“You’ve got to in this defense,” Gay said. “We get so worried about what our teammates will say, we don’t care. We’d rather get put to sleep or something than get put on film with everybody (saying) that, ‘Oh, (Gay) don’t want to tackle.’ It’s a tough group to be around like that.”

Odds and end zones

Defensive end Brett Keisel (hamstring) was the only player to miss practice Wednesday for the Steelers. … Wide receiver Antonio Brown was fined $18,000 by the NFL for a pair of infractions in Sunday’s loss to the Bears. Brown was penalized for grabbing a defender’s facemask and later for a late hit. … The Steelers will practice again today in Pittsburgh before leaving for London Thursday evening.

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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