Reid up, Rico down, new CB standing by

PITTSBURGH – Just after Bill Cowher announced that Ricardo Colclough would miss Sunday's game because of a neck problem, Cowher gave Steelers fans the news they'd been waiting to hear:

Willie Reid will return punts Sunday night in San Diego.

Even though Colclough was the former punt returner for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the moves are not related. Colclough's fumbling problems cost him the job and the neck injury was brought to the Steelers' attention Monday. On Wednesday Colclough expressed fears that the condition could end his career. He didn't get into specifics, and neither did Cowher on Thursday.

"He got a lot of tests done today," Cowher said. "I don't have the results. He'll get one more test done [Friday] so I'll have more information. We're trying to get him checked out. He's got a nerve issue that we have to get rectified, so he's going to be out."

Cowher said that Colclough felt discomfort in his neck for close to a week before reporting it to trainer John Norwig. But no one knows how the problem started.

"He doesn't remember any specific situations," Cowher said. "He was out there [Wednesday]. We wanted to let him run around, stay away from contact, just to see if he continued to feel it, or if it was something that he slept wrong or something of that nature. He continued to feel it and so that's when we went through the testing that we've gone through [Thursday]. It's pretty extensive and again we'll do some more [Friday]."

Cowher said he needs "more information before I make any long-term decision" on Colclough's season, but rookie cornerback Anthony Madison said that the team told him to prepare for a promotion from the practice squad.

"My first NFL game will be on my birthday," said the soon-to-be 24-year-old. "In practice I'm starting on special teams and backup corner, and so they told me to be ready. I'm excited. It's a blessing. It's been a tough road and I've been waiting for my opportunity. I got hurt in preseason and that hurt my chances of making the original roster."

Madison missed two preseason games with a hamstring injury and didn't make the final cut. He was instead placed on the practice squad, where the 5-9, 180-pounder made an impression.

"He can cover," said cornerback Deshea Townsend, who has had his eyes on Madison ever since Madison moved into the Alabama starting lineup as a sophomore.

Townsend also played at Alabama. Is that what he likes most about Madison?

"Well that increases it, but he's a good player," Townsend said. "He's smart, very athletic. He's kind of like me in that people look at his size and want to say negative things about him but there's a reason that he's here."

Madison may weigh only 180 pounds, but the undrafted free agent is thickly built and appears to fit the mold of Steelers corners who blitz and support the run.

"He wouldn't be here if he couldn't," said Townsend.

Madison described himself this way: "I'm a coverage corner slash I-will-tackle-you guy. I'll just say that. But it's not in stone yet. It just seems that way."

What has been set in stone by Cowher is that Reid will return punts. It's a popular decision for fans who watched Reid flawlessly handle 10 of the Steelers' 14 preseason punt returns. He led the team with an 8.8-yard average.

The man who broke Deion Sanders's punt-return records at Florida State is obviously excited about his opportunity.

"I'm very happy right now, but there's still a job to do and I have to be ready Sunday," said Reid, who was asked for the key to returning punts.

"First, catching the ball," he said. "Second, vision. But a lot of it comes down to blockers. They do a lot of work for you."

Florida State's blockers must've done an exceptional job for Reid in the Orange Bowl against Penn State. Reid piled up a school and bowl-record 180 yards on seven punt returns, including an 87-yard return for a touchdown. He finished the season with a school-record 15.4 average and three touchdowns.

Reid will return punts for the Steelers "in the regular field," according to Cowher, who added: "We may leave Santonio [Holmes] back there for some of the plus-50 kicks. I think he's got a good feel for that. We've gone through some of those issues there."

Cowher said Reid and Holmes will also be the team's kickoff returners.

"We had struggled before catching and fielding punts," Reid said. "Hopefully I'll be there to remedy everything."

NOTES – Cowher said there's a chance Reid will see action as a wide receiver as well. … RB Najeh Davenport (calf) practiced Thursday and Cowher said he "worked pretty good." Davenport remains questionable for the game. … When the Steelers released cornerback Chidi Iwuoma on Sept. 6, they told him to "stay alive," according to Cowher, just in case the team needed to sign him later. But the Steelers acted too slowly this week. The Patriots signed Iwuoma on Wednesday.


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