Notebook: New corners take the field

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> You wanted new corners, you got 'em. Well, at least for the time being. <br><br> Left cornerback Chad Scott left practice Wednesday with a contusion of his right knee after contact early in the session.

Last week, the Steelers' other starting cornerback, Dewayne Washington, was benched after the team's fifth consecutive loss. He was replaced by Deshea Townsend, with rookie Ike Taylor replacing Townsend in the dime defense.

After falling to 32nd in the league in opponents' completion percentage, both Washington and Scott became scapegoats for the team's poor record, and now, perhaps, the critics are happy. But Scott is due back for Thursday's practice.

"If we put him on the injury report (Friday), he'll probably be listed as probable," said team spokesman Ron Wahl.

The Steelers made the change at cornerback last week, knocking Washington all the way off the depth chart to special teams. Townsend started in his place and Taylor, the raw rookie, didn't embarrass himself.

Hallelujah, they have some corners! Right?

Well, the statistics tell a different story. The Steelers fell from seventh in the NFL against the pass to 14th after allowing Cardinals quarterback Jeff Blake to throw for 283 net yards. It was the second highest total put up against the Steelers this season, and was due in part to the Steelers holding a lead throughout most of the game. It forced the Cardinals to throw 43 times, a total matched this season only by the Baltimore Ravens in the opener.

While the yardage total can be dismissed because of circumstances, this one can't: The Cardinals averaged 12.3 yards per completion, the second highest total the Steelers have allowed this season.

For the season, the Steelers are allowing 11.1 yards per completion, 14th in the league in one of the key defensive indicators.

Against the Cardinals, Taylor's biggest concern was rookie wide receiver Anquan Boldin, he of the 4.6 40 speed. Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers, Taylor will at times find himself matched up against Terrell Owens, who not only embarrasses young corners on the field but sometimes in the end zone after he scores.

"He's a big-time receiver, a big-time playmaker," said Taylor. "It would be an honor to cover him."

Owens has 48 catches this season for 636 yards (13.3 avg.) and four touchdowns. Last season, he caught 100 passes for 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also pulled out a Sharpie and signed the football after beating Shawn Springs for a touchdown during a game on Monday night. He also grabbed a set of pom-poms off a cheerleader and waved them around for the cameras after another score. But Taylor's not worried about those extracurricular activities.

"That's a part of the game," he said. "You've just got to come back the next play."

Taylor said he's excited about his first Monday night game. "It's what I've been dreaming about," he said. And be certain he won't miss any of his R.E.M. time. Prior to his first action last week, Taylor said he slept 8-12 hours every night leading up to the game, and expects to do the same this weekend.

"It's hard to stay focused if you're tired," he said, "so I learned from the vets to get as much sleep as possible. You take care of your body; your body will take care of you. That's what they tell me."

Also missing Thursday's practice, along with Scott, were right tackle Oliver Ross (ankle) and running back Jerome Bettis (shoulder). Both players are listed as questionable for Monday's game. Tackle Marvel Smith (neck) is listed as doubtful, but continued his routine of practicing during the shells portion of the Steelers' workouts.

The only change to the 49ers' injury list involves back-up cornerback Jason Webster, whose knee injury was changed to a hamstring injury Thursday.

The 49ers list 13 players as injured, but only three starters are in danger of missing Monday's game. Quarterback Jeff Garcia (ankle) is listed as questionable even though he's been ruled out by Coach Dennis Erickson. Garcia will be replaced for a second consecutive game by Tim Rattay, Troy Edwards' former quarterback at Louisiana Tech. Also questionable are free safety Zack Bronson (neck), who was replaced last game by John Keith, and linebacker Jeff Ulbrich (ankle).

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