The Steelers beat up secondary could mean more playing time for some young players this week.
Cornerback Ike Taylor has already been ruled out with an ankle injury, and his replacement Cortez Allen suffered a hip flexor against the Chargers that will limit him in practice this week and has his game time availability in question. Keenan Lewis also has a hip flexor, but he is expected to play on Sunday.
The mounting injuries are putting corners Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke in the spotlight this week. Brown stepped in early when Allen was injured last week and Victorian saw action in the second half.
“Obviously, we are running short at cornerback,” said Tomlin. “Those guys that had the opportunity to step up and log a bunch of snaps over the last week and a half, that looks like it is going to continue.
“We will continue to work with those guys and build a plan around what they are capable of executing and executing at a high level. More than anything, it’s not about what we call. It’s about what those guys are capable of executing. As we prepare this week, we will have that in mind, in regards to some of those young cornerbacks that are going to participate.”
Brown, the Steelers’ third-round draft pick last year, struggled somewhat against the Chargers, but Tomlin isn’t afraid of going back to him.
“More than anything, this is about it being an awesome opportunity for him to show that he’s capable and to show his preparedness to deliver for our team,” said Tomlin. “Not the results that we were looking for last time out for him, but you could say that about all of us. We don’t live in our fears, we live in our hopes. We are all eyes moving forward, in terms of our preparation and opportunity this week. He has an opportunity to respond to a less than ideal performance the last time out.”
Victorian came in and played just one day after he was signed off the team’s practice squad and Van Dyke has played on special teams more than defense, but Tomlin likes what he sees in them.
“Both guys aren’t afraid of the competition,” said Tomlin. “Josh, particularly, is very ball-aware and has good ball skills. Van Dyke has played a lot of ball, particularly prior to getting here. He’s game-tested. Both guys have worked extremely hard on the practice field, getting an opportunity to compete against the likes of Antonio (Brown) and Mike Wallace and represented themselves rather well.
“But practice fields, of course, and game fields are two different things. We’re excited about watching those guys prepare and, more importantly, putting them in a position where they can execute with great detail as we go into the stadium on Sunday. So, it’s more about what they understand and understand very well and are able to display on a game field than maybe necessarily what we would like to run or are comfortable with.”
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The Steelers dressed five wide receivers against the Chargers, including Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress. Tomlin said he wasn’t sure how they would proceed moving forward at the position, as it’s a week-to-week thing based on the health of the team at other positions.
“It’s not exclusive to the wide receiver position,” said Tomlin. “It’s about getting the best, healthy combination out there ready to play. So, five wide receivers was an opportunity last week. I don’t know that it will be the case this week. We’ll see.”