Pittsburgh Steelers : Team Report

Pittsburgh's secondary, the root of a problem that caused the pass defense to drive from No. 4 to No. 20 in one year, may undergo another change after two preseason games.

Cornerback Dewayne Washington gave up two straight long passes on the right side to the Eagles last week. On the next series, he was replaced by No. 3 cornerback Dewayne Washington. Coach Bill Cowher explained that it had nothing to do with Washington, but he just wanted to get Townsend some playing time against the first group.

But he has not done that in the past. And he did not do that with anyone else on the first-team defense. Washington joined the Steelers in 1998 as a free agent from Minnesota and he has been a decent cornerback for them. He also has been an iron man. He has not missed a start in his five years with the Steelers and he's only missed one start since he came into the league in 1994, and that was in '95 with the Vikings.

Yet last season was not a good one for Washington, 30. It culminated in Tennessee when he missed a tackle and then ran into the kicker on a missed field goal in overtime to give the Titans a second chance in the playoff game, which they converted.

Townsend is the best cover cornerback on the team, but not quite as big as Washington or Chad Scott. Still, at 5-10, 191 he's no shrimp and Cowher may think it's time to give up a little size to gain some coverage. If a change were made, it would affect their base and nickel defenses because Townsend also plays in their dime defense.

The Steelers already have added speed in their base defense by inserting Mike Logan at strong safety. That's where Lee Flowers played the past five seasons and while he was big, he could not cover like a defensive back.

Logan has held off rookie No. 1 pick Troy Polamalu and now looks as though he will start there during the regular season. Polamalu plays in the nickel and dime defenses but does not start. Logan has had the best training camp of all the defensive backs. It's possible Polamalu will not start for awhile, or if he does there would be a change at free safety, where Brent Alexander starts.

In the meantime, Scott was charged with two pass interference penalties on the same series that helped Philadelphia to a touchdown. He has been playing and practicing well and the interference penalties will be overlooked as plays of aggression, which Cowher would like to see. One was a ticky-tack penalty that could have been ignored.

The No. 4 cornerback, Hank Poteat, hardly has made an impression in camp. He missed two weeks of practice and the first exhibition game with a separated shoulder. Poteat has been a disappointment since they drafted him on the third round in 2000.

Chidi Iwuoma, who was the No. 4 cornerback, keeps giving up touchdowns because he is only 5-feet-8 and the receivers merely take the ball away from him. It's happened to him twice in two preseason games. Rookie Ike Taylor is making a play to move up to No. 4. He's the most impressive talent in camp. He's 6-1, 198 and can fly. Trouble is, he only played the position one season at Louisiana-Lafayette and needs to learn a lot about technique and a working secondary. Nevertheless, he's picked it up so far in camp and they have high hopes for him.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Steelers' last practice at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. is Aug. 19. They do not scrimmage against any other team.


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