|No guarantees: Steelers' Smith may lose starting job|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 19 December 2007 11:55|
Smith, the second-year Pittsburgh Steelers free safety who riled up the New England Patriots by guaranteeing a win against them two weeks ago, may not start Thursday night's game in St. Louis.
After being in coverage for three long pass plays in two games, Smith may be benched for Tyrone Carter against St. Louis. Carter said the coaches told him he would start.
Smith's only chance of starting would appear to be if the Steelers open the game with three safeties and a cornerback in their secondary, a configuration they used at times during their 29-22 loss Sunday to Jacksonville.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was unhappy Smith was beaten on Dennis Northcutt's 55-yard TD catch Sunday, a week after Smith was in coverage on Randy Moss' 63-yard TD play and Jabar Gaffney's 56-yard scoring pass play for New England.
Smith made his second interception of the season in the Jacksonville game, but it apparently wasn't enough to guarantee him a starting job Thursday. Smith became a starter after Ryan Clark developed a season-ending spleen problem six games into the season.
``The last couple of games, we've given up big plays,'' Tomlin said. ``We've got to get that corrected. We can't allow that to be a consistent pattern. We can't allow that to happen in St. Louis if we want to win in St. Louis.''
A week after New England threw for 399 yards in its 34-13 win over Pittsburgh, Jacksonville was held to 197 yards passing but ran for 224 yards in outgaining the Steelers 421-217.
The Steelers have had little time on the practice field to work out their problems. They had a full practice on Tuesday, normally the players' day off, but were limited to what essentially was a walkthrough session before leaving Wednesday for St. Louis.
``It's always for us, in the secondary, all about making sure we give up as few big passes as we can,'' cornerback Deshea Townsend said. ``Don't give teams the easy way, no big plays, make them earn it, and if we do that we'll be fine.''
The Steelers may make another change in their secondary, with Bryant McFadden replacing Ike Taylor at cornerback if Taylor can't play because of a sore knee. Taylor did not practice Tuesday.
Rookie outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley might make his first career start for the injured Clark Haggans (knee), although Haggans said he did not intend to miss the game.
Despite the Rams' 3-11 record, they have two receivers who can present coverage problems in Torry Holt (83 catches for 1,055 yards and seven touchdowns) and Isaac Bruce (46 catches, 607 yards, 3 TDs).
``For us, it's about making sure we're doing it right, making sure we're playing good team defense,'' Townsend said. ``And we have to get back to playing the type of defense we are capable of.''