Towering trio presents big test

Longtime Jacksonville receiver Jimmy Smith, a familiar thorn in the side of the Steelers defense, is gone. But, in his place is a physical receiving triumvirate primed to pick up on Monday night where Smith left off.

PITTSBURGH – Over the years, few opposing wide receivers caused the Steelers as many problems as Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith.

Then again, the Steelers weren't alone among the group of teams who Smith had terrorized over the years. That's why when Smith abruptly announced his retirement this spring, you can bet there were more than one sigh of relief around the NFL.

"Jimmy Smith was just one of those guys who ran good routes and was sneaky fast," said Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend. "I won't miss seeing him out there. But these guys they have now are pretty good too."

Monday night against the Steelers, the Jaguars' other receivers will get a chance to show Pittsburgh's secondary how much they learned from Smith, who finished his NFL career with 862 receptions for 12,287 yards.

"We know that not one of us are going to replace (Smith)," Jaguars wideout Ernest Wilford told reporters this summer. "So we know all three of us have to come together and do it." The problem is, coming into this season, they hadn't done it a whole lot.

Wilford was the team's second-leading receiver last season with 45 receptions for 734 yards and seven touchdowns, while Matt Jones, a former college quarterback, finished his rookie season with 42 catches for 526 yards and five scores. Reggie Williams, the team's top draft pick in 2004, had 39 catches for 501 yards and no touchdowns.

Combined, they have just five NFL seasons under their belts. But the one thing they do have is size. Wilford and Williams are both 6-4. Jones is 6-6. Though Ike Taylor is 6-1, the rest of the Steelers cornerbacks are 6-0 or smaller.

"If you don't get your position and get your head around, these guys are going to go up and get the ball," said Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. "It's going to test our ability to be disciplined in coverage. At the same time, we're going to have to be physical, because that's how these guys like to play." Dallas found out the hard way in Jacksonville's 24-17 win over the Cowboys last week, as the threesome combined for 14 receptions for 176 yards and a touchdown.

"They're all big guys," said Steelers cornerback Ricardo Colclough. "It tests your ability to make plays when you go up against guys like this because sometimes you can have good coverage and the quarterback can just throw the ball up and let them go up and get it."

Williams did just that in catching the team's lone touchdown pass last week. Though Dallas' cornerback had position on him, Williams jumped over the top of him to come down with the ball.

"We're going to need to be physical with these guys," said Townsend.

"You have to bump them at the line of scrimmage and stay on top of them all the time. Otherwise, they will try to be more physical than you. That's their game."

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter

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