Posted December 06, 2012 on AP on Fox
The seeds for a rivalry between Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen were planted early. Selected one round apart by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 NFL draft, the cornerbacks found themselves fighting for playing time - and a roster spot - on a defense that isn't the easiest to learn. Brown, a third-round pick, played at Texas. Allen, who went a round later, played at The Citadel, far from the bright lights of big-time college football. Coach Mike Tomlin admits he ''pitted'' the two youngsters against one another much the way he did with wide receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, separated by 113 picks in the 2010 draft. The ploy worked, kind of. While the cornerbacks admit they're better off for having to compete with the other, there is no blood feud, no looking over each other's shoulder to see what the other is doing. ''He's probably my closest friend on the team,'' Allen said. The fact the Steelers initially rated Curtis Brown a little higher never comes up, perhaps because both players know it's irrelevant. They were selected to be teammates, though that hasn't stopped Tomlin from using the ''two dogs, one bone'' metaphor to try to help them bring out the best in each other. While they have, that competitiveness doesn't carry over off the field. ''We chill every day,'' Brown said. ''We hang out together in the offseason. We're in it for the long run.'' One that's starting a little sooner than planned. Allen and Brown will see extensive playing time when the Steelers (7-5) take on San Diego (4-8) Sunday without veteran cornerback Ike Taylor for the first time in eight years. Taylor is out at least two weeks with a fractured right ankle, leaving Pittsburgh's top-ranked pass defense very young and more than a little fired up. ''I take the approach that you should always be prepared,'' Allen said. ''I was ready for this and I feel like the coaching staff and my teammates are confident in me to get the job done.'' The bigger, bulkier Allen - who at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds is an inch taller and 11 pounds heavier than Brown - will start at cornerback then slide into his usual nickel spot in passing situations while Brown replaces him on the outside. It's a setup both feel plays to their strengths. Brown feels more comfortable going one-on-one on the outside, where quickness and instincts can overcome mistakes, while Allen's cerebral approach makes him a perfect fit for the sometimes complex coverage assignments. ''I'm just trying to make a name for myself at corner,'' Brown said. He's already on his way. Brown didn't have time to get nervous last Sunday when Taylor went out in the first quarter. He suddenly found himself thrust into a critical spot in the most important game of the season. Don't think the Ravens didn't notice, targeting Brown twice on third downs shortly after he came onto the field. Both plays ended up with incompletions in the Steelers' 23-20 win. ''They cooled off after a while,'' Brown said. ''They tried me the first two third downs and they weren't successful. ... They didn't throw much at me after that.'' Allen's start proved rockier. Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin lit him up several times in the first half as the Ravens moved the ball with relative ease as Baltimore eased to a 13-6 lead. Getting picked on didn't tighten Allen up. If anything, it helped him relax. ''The new guy, yeah, (teams) try to go at him,'' Allen said. ''It's something you have to be ready for. Every down you play, you have to play like it's coming to you. I was ready for it and expecting it and I accept that challenge.'' So does fourth-year cornerback Keenan Lewis, who suddenly finds himself the elder statesman. Lewis has provided a sounding board for both Allen and Brown, maybe it's because he's used to being considered the weaker link with Taylor on the other side of the field. There's a reason Lewis is tied for the NFL lead in passes defensed: Teams would prefer to throw at him than Taylor. He persevered much the same way the kids lining up next to him Sunday will have to endure against one of the league's biggest receiving corps. Then again, being relatively anonymous isn't exactly a bad thing. When asked what he knew about Allen and Brown, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers just laughed. ''Not a ton obviously,'' Rivers said. ''I know it's a confident group of guys that stepped up in the game and played there in Baltimore and won.'' Something the two young cornerbacks know is the standard in Pittsburgh no matter who is on the field. There will be times when it's just one of them out there. They're fine with it, knowing when the time comes, they have each other's back. ''The `two dogs, one bone thing,' that's a Coach T thing,'' Brown said. ''We're just working every day.'' --- Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Cortez Allen Remains Slot Nickel Corner While Ike Taylor Is Out

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor is now out for at least two weeks and maybe longer with a fractured right ankle so that now means that Cortez Allen will start and play in his place until he returns. Curtis Brown now becomes the third corner moving forward, and while most are writing that he will play the nickel slot position, that is simply not the truth. When Brown...

Steelers Injury Report: Roethlisberger Practices Fully, Brown, Sanders & Wallace Rest

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the practice field on Wednesday as they prepare to host the San Diego Chargers Sunday at Heinz Field and the first injury report of the week is now out. As reported previously, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (rib,shoulder) looked good on Wednesday and the signs are pointing to him being able to start Sunday as long as his body responds well the...

Steelers expect Roethlisberger back this week, Ike Taylor has a hairline fracture

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers expect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be ready to go for this week’s game against the Chargers. Dulac also reported that cornerback Ike Taylor has a hairline fracutre in his lower right leg.  He’s expected to miss at least two weeks, he could easily be out longer.     var _CI = _CI || {}; (function...

Steelers CB Taylor's streak to end

Pittsburgh's ironman is out on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. The franchise quarterback might be too. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday cornerback Ike Taylor's 135-game streak will end after Taylor sustained a fractured right ankle in last weekend's 23-20 win over Baltimore. Taylor will likely be out at least two weeks, handing the starting job to second...

Time is Now for Haley’s Offense

In the final four weeks of the 2012 National Football League season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have three of their final four games at home. The three home game opponents are a combined 7-11 on the road with Cincinnati being a surprising 4-2 away from ‘Heinz Field West.’ One stat which I know I cringe at every time I see it is that this week’s opponent San Diego, is 0-14...

Steelers Defensive Coverage Stats Versus Ravens – Week 13

Below are the coverage stats for the Pittsburgh Steelers following their 23-20 win Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens. The completion percentage of 48% is outstanding and the 5.70 yards per attempt was great as well. In the two meetings with the Ravens this season quarterback Joe Flacco was 36-of-66 (54.5%) for 352 yards (5.3 YPA) with 1 TD 1 INT and was sacked 5 times. Cornerback...

Steelers To Bring In Free Agent Cornerbacks For Visits; Stanford Routt Signs With Texans

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed during his Tuesday press conference that cornerback Ike Taylor suffered a fractured right ankle early in the win over the Baltimore Ravens and that he will miss a couple of weeks or more as a result. With Taylor now sidelined indefinitely, Tomlin was asked if they will bring in any defensive backs for a work out. "We could...

Wallace blames focus for lack of production

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace's average yards per game is down from 74.56 a year-ago to 51.33 in twelve games this season despite his average receptions per-year being close to the same.   Some of that has to do with Todd Haley's offense and some with Wallace's lack of focus. "I've never been a guy who dropped balls or just lose focus,"...

Steelers To Work Out Free Agent CB Stanford Routt

Maybe the fibula injury suffered by cornerback Ike Taylor Sunday in the win over the Baltimore Ravens will keep out a very extended time after all as John McClain from the Houston Chronicle is reporting via Twitter that free agent cornerback Stanford Routt will work out for the Pittsburgh Steelers today. Routt, who was released by the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this season, will...

Report: Steelers Work Out Free Agent CB Justin King On Wednesday

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said during his Tuesday press conference that the team would likely kick the tires on a few free agent cornerbacks in light of Ike Taylor being out now at least a few weeks with a fractured right ankle. The team had free agent cornerback Stanford Routt scheduled for a Wednesday visit, but he signed with the Houston Texans on Tuesday after...

Steelers' Roethlisberger working toward return; Taylor out

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has continued to improve the strength and range of motion in his shoulder, as the soreness in his shoulder and chest have diminished, according to an ESPN.com report, citing a source. Head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that he and his coaches will determine this week whether Roethlisberger can return from a three-week absence...

Steelers Injury Report: Roethlisberger To Start, Colon A Game-time Decision

The Pittsburgh Steelers continued practice preparations on Thursday for their game Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field and the Thursday injury report is now out. Not practicing again on Thursday were linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle), tackle Mike Adams (ankle), and cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle). Both Adams and Taylor have long since been ruled out for Sunday and...

Steelers Sign CB Josh Victorian Back To Practice Squad; Release WR Derrick Moye

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a practice squad roster move on Tuesday as it was announced that cornerback Josh Victorian has been brought back and that wide receiver Derrick Moye was released to make room for him. The Steelers needed Victorian back because the fractured ankle suffered by Ike Taylor early in the win over the Baltimore Ravens has thinned the depth. Taylor is expected...

The Blitz – Steelers Fan Podcast – Week 13 Wrapup

Join hosts Marc and Matt as they break down the Steelers epic win over the hated Baltimore Ravens in the final seconds of week 13. We talk all things Steelers as we update the latest injury news, talk about the keys to the win both on offense and defense, and the mindset of the team heading into this game and now after it’s over. Charlie Batch, Heath Miller, Emmanuel Sanders, James...

Roethlisberger to Practice Wednesday

The Steelers will lose cornerback Ike Taylor for at least two weeks, but it appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will return in time to start Sunday's game against San Diego.
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.