Tall order: Rivers awaits Steelers' thin secondary Print
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Thursday, 13 November 2008 11:48
NFL Headline News

 PITTSBURGH (AP) -Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers. In three consecutive home games, the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking on three of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
Not much of a break, for sure. Not much time for them to break in a new secondary, either.
With Deshea Townsend and Bryant McFadden injured and out, the Steelers (6-3) will have only one of their top three cornerbacks - Ike Taylor - to oppose Rivers and the San Diego Chargers (4-5) on Sunday.
William Gay, a fifth-round draft pick from Louisville a year ago, is expected to make his first NFL start at cornerback. Fernando Bryant, a 10th-year cornerback who was out of the league until signing this week, will play in nickel back situations despite having only a few days' worth of practices.
``And they have LT (running back LaDainian Tomlinson), so we can't really sit out there and baby-sit and coddle the new guys and let them play different from Deshea or different from Bryant,'' safety Ryan Clark said. ``We just will come and do the same thing.''
at the Steelers know they can't do is allow Rivers to come out and play the way he's been playing. He has four 300-yard games and is the NFL's second most-efficient passer, leading the league with 21 touchdown passes.
``Right now Philip is playing with a lot of confidence,'' Clark said. ``You see him getting fired up. That's the type of quarterback you want on your team. Guys like that, if you let them get on a roll and let them get on an emotional high, it can be a long day.''
Especially during a short week for Bryant. He is scrambling to learn the Pittsburgh defense's terminology and alignments, though, he said, ``Corner is pretty much the same. Man-to-man is man-to-man. Cover 2 is cover 2.''
The Steelers played efficiently against the two Mannings, at least until poor field position created by a safety against New York and an interception against Indianapolis led them to allow go-ahead touchdowns with about three minutes remaining.
The Giants rallied from a 14-9 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Steelers 21-14 on Oct. 26. The Colts were down 17-7 in the first half and 20-17 late in the fourth quarter before winning 24-20 last Sunday.
Rivers has thrown 10 touchdown passes in his last four games, yet he said he can't be tempted into throwing when he shouldn't because the Steelers' secondary is so thin.
ent guy in there.' I think every guy in the league is waiting to get that opportunity (to play),'' Rivers said. ``If you look at the guys that will be in there for them, they will be excited to go.''
Even if Bryant hasn't gone in a game that mattered since last season with Detroit. He was cut by New England late in training camp.
Being without the 6-foot McFadden (broken forearm) is costing the Steelers' secondary some of its size. Taylor is 6-2 and often shadows the opposing team's best receiver, but Gay and Bryant are 5-10 and backup Anthony Madison is 5-9. The Chargers have three receivers that are 6-4 or taller.
``They have a lot of big receivers and that allows him (Rivers) to throw the ball into coverages that you can't throw into with small receivers,'' Clark said. ``Sometimes even though you'll have great coverage, you're going to have to be able to play the ball.''
Another worry for the secondary: Tomlinson, a seven-time 1,000-yard runner, poses a threat whenever he turns a corner. He has four runs of 20 yards or longer this season and 74 during his career.
``I think the thing we have to do is stop those big plays,'' Clark said.
 

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