Carr eager to take on Steelers as a starter

OWINGS MILLS -- Chris Carr isn't intimidated by the Pittsburgh Steelers' vaunted passing game headlined by star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. If anything, the Baltimore Ravens' diminutive cornerback is striking a bold, confident stance as he prepares to line up as a starter for the first time this season Sunday at Heinz Field.

One week removed from Roethlisberger blistering the Green Bay Packers' normally sound secondary for a franchise-record 503 passing yards along with three touchdown passes, he's expected to use Carr for target practice.

From Carr's standpoint, he welcomes the anticipated attention.

"Hopefully," said Carr, who's replacing injured rookie Lardarius Webb. "If you're a competitor, you want the ball to come your way so that you can make some plays on the ball. But you've just got to go out there and expect your guy to get the ball every single time and just go out there and relax and play. I feel like I'm getting into a groove."

Carr is accustomed to being underrated and overlooked.

Signed in the offseason to a two-year, $5 million contract after spending last season with the Tennessee Titans, Carr went undrafted out of Boise State and was signed by the Oakland Raiders as a rookie free agent five years ago.

Now, he's poised to make his eighth NFL start against a speedy receiving corps led by Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and rookie Mike Wallace. "I've been out there," Carr said. "It feels good. I've been out there a lot all season, playing corner and nickel. It's not like I've been on the bench the whole entire season and all of a sudden I'm right in there.

"I've been playing a lot of corner the last couple games. I feel like the more time I'm out there, the more plays I'm going to make. I'm very confident in my capabilities. Hopefully, I'll continue to play well and we'll get this victory."

This isn't Carr's first game against Roethlisberger.

In 2006 with the Raiders, Carr intercepted a Roethlisberger pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.

"I played against Ben Roethlisberger before," Carr said. "We know he's good and we know he's capable. I think Ben played a great game, but the Packers didn't play so well.

"We're very confident if we play well we think we can do a lot of things against him. If we play fundamentally sound like we have been doing, we should do well."

Carr has played in every game this season, recording 25 tackles, two interceptions, six pass deflections, one forced fumble and a sack. Since Fabian Washington tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 22, Carr's playing time has been increased.

Carr has played both outside corner and in the slot in nickel packages.

"One thing about Chris Carr is he's very versatile, and he's played well all year," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You're in the slot and you battle and you have some good ones and some not so good ones against the guys we play against.

"I think Chris has shown over his career that he can play. He played outside quite a bit last year for Tennessee. They had a pretty good defense. He's played well when he's had his chances for us."

And Carr, who intercepted one pass and registered 33 tackles with seven pass deflections last season for the Titans, has emerged as a starter in the wake of Webb suffering a torn ACL against the Chicago Bears.

Signed as the Ravens' primary punt returner and kickoff returner, Webb chose the Ravens primarily because he wanted to play more on defense and be reunited with secondary coach Chuck Pagano who coached him in Oakland.

He visited the Steelers, New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns before signing with Baltimore.

On Sunday, he'll have to stick with the Steelers' receivers for a long time considering Roethlisberger's ability to buy time and improvise.

"They're very fast and very slick," Carr said. "Last week against the Bears was good practice because everybody on their team is very fast. That's probably the fastest corps that we've faced.

"This week, it's a different ballgame because when Ben starts scrambling you never know what kind of routes they're going to be. A lot of times receivers are covered initially, but they get open. It's just difficult because you have to cover a lot longer when you play Pittsburgh."

Carr is expected to remain the main punt returner and also return kickoffs while sharing some of that duty with other players.

"If they want me to do punt returns and kickoff returns, I want to do everything," he said. "I pride myself on being a complete football player."


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