Much-traveled Victorian competing for Steelers' CB spot
The Steelers stiffened the competition at cornerback, in part, because they found themselves in the unenviable position of lacking depth at the position because of injuries last season.
The starters, Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis, were slowed or sidelined late in the final weeks of 2012. And backups Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown limped down the stretch with a series of nagging aches and pains.
As a result, undrafted free agent Josh Victorian was thrust into the starting lineup against Dallas before a crowd of nearly 96,000 at Cowboys Stadium in December. Predictably, Victorian turned in an uneven performance.
Victorian, who spent time on the practice squad of AFC North rival Baltimore and New England before signing with the Steelers last September, had his moments in shutting down receiver Dez Bryant. He helped hold Bryant to four catches for 59 yards. But three times his aggressive, in-your-face style of play drew penalties and the ire of an angry Bryant, who pulled in a 24-yard touchdown pass.
“You never want to get beat. I rather give up the 15-yard penalty than having them striking up the scoreboard,” Victorian said. “I learned that from the older guys. You don't want to hold, but sometimes it's like, ‘Why not? ' ”
The Louisiana Tech product has managed to agitate the Steelers' receiver corps during training camp at St. Vincent College. For the most part, he's enhanced his reputation by challenging — and sometimes daring — big-play threat Antonio Brown to beat him.
“Any chance I get to go against 84 (Brown), it's like, ‘OK, here we go,' ” Victorian said. “You try to go against him as much as you can so you can get better every day.
“He is a tough guy to cover. He wins some and I win some, so I'm confident I cover any receiver.”
On Saturday, Victorian and Brown were back at it during seven-on-seven drills.
The receivers like what they've seen of Victorian, particularly in man coverage and his willingness to defend the run.
“Usually, those aggressive guys want to compete,” veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “No matter what happens, (Victorian) comes ready to play.
“Everybody knows he wants to go against AB (Brown). It's just fun to watch him compete even when he was on the practice squad last year.”
Victorian will have to work as hard during the preseason as he did a year ago before the Steelers activated him when Taylor went down with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 13. There's a long list of challengers for a roster spot, including Isaiah Green, Ryan Steed and former Pitt cornerback Buddy Jackson.
Again, injuries during the first week of camp explain why 10 cornerbacks are on the roster:
• Allen, who had three starts last season, had knee surgery earlier this week.
• Curtis Brown limped off the practice field Friday with a heavily wrapped hamstring and was limited in practice Saturday.
• DeMarcus Van Dyke has been sideline with a hamstring injury.
• Terry Hawthorne, a fifth-round pick from Illinois, injured his knee in OTAs and could miss most of training camp.
“I want to compete against the best, so when you get a shot you have to make it count,” Victorian said.