Steelers Could Call Upon Emergency Options To Contend With Bengals Tight Ends
By Matthew Marczi
With the news yesterday that Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen will miss the team’s Week Two game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and Curtis Brown listed as doubtful, one would have to think that safety Robert Golden is in the on-deck circle should an injury occur or an instance for a dime back arise.
It was already evidenced in the season opener that safety Shamarko Thomas will be the first to step up at the nickel corner whenever an injury occurs to the top three, as he played ten snaps in the loss during the second half when Allen left with an ankle injury.
But Thomas is just 5’9”, and the thought occurred to me that, with the Bengals utilizing two tight end sets frequently with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert—and A.J. Green being 6’4” himself—the Steelers might be interested in giving their fifth safety, DaMon Cromartie-Smith, some reps on defense if the size differential proves to be too much of a burden.
The Steelers had issues contending with the height offered by the San Diego Chargers last season and really had no alternative. Cromartie-Smith offers a 6’2” frame that is matched only by Ike Taylor in the Steelers’ secondary.
Cromartie-Smith is already active on game days due to his special teams responsibilities, so it would require no special circumstances in order to get him on the field. He is an option should the Steelers feel that they are lacking in height differential to such a degree that it is hurting their chances to win.
Another option that the Steelers could possibly employ would be to use inside linebacker Vince Williams in certain passing situations against a tight end. Such an idea may have seemed absurd back in April when he was drafted with the reputation of being a two-down linebacker who came off the field during obvious passing situations.
However, there is little room to argue against his on-field performance in pass coverage. He worked with Taylor during the offseason on his coverage abilities, and it resulted in him being arguably the best linebacker on the team in coverage during the preseason. In fact, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggested on Twitter that the Steelers may utilize him on mid-range third down situations.
Williams was a game day inactive last week, but that surely will not be the case this week after the injury to Larry Foote, as the Steelers are now down to just four inside linebackers.
With two of their top four cornerbacks likely down this week, and the fifth cornerback being completely inexperienced in the team’s system, the Steelers may find themselves looking for answers in coverage, and these two players may find themselves called upon in that role, even if only in an emergency situation.