By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 3:27 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Michael Huff emerged from seclusion long enough Friday to confirm what everyone already knew _ the veteran safety may be playing a lot of cornerback against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“If I’m out there at corner I’ll be ready and if I’m out there at safety I’ll be ready,’’ Huff said.
The Raiders officially ruled Shawntae Spencer out of Sunday’s game at O.co Coliseum, meaning they’ve lost both of their starting cornerbacks in two weeks. Ron Bartell broke his shoulder blade in the opener.
One of the challenges this week for the defensive staff has been putting the secondary together like a jigsaw puzzle and hoping the pieces fit. Huff, who made himself scarce during open locker room sessions until Friday, claimed he didn’t know the game plan.
Coach Dennis Allen knows it, but wasn’t getting into specifics.
“I think we have a pretty good plan for what we’re going to do and how we’re going to attack that position so we’ll be ready on Sunday come anything that comes our way,’’ Allen said.
Logic and depth suggest Huff will be matched up with wide receivers a good amount of time, given that Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson are the only other options at the position _ and each struggled in a 35-13 loss to Miami.
The other cornerbacks on the roster, Coye Francies and Phillip Adams, played only on special teams even after Spencer left the game.
Matt Giordano, an extra defensive back in some packages, has had success playing free safety in Huff’s absence before.
The question is whether Huff will play outside as a true corner or in the slot, a position he’s more familiar with as a nickel back. In seven years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Hanson’s best work has also come as a slot defender, rather than on the outside.
Huff said he has no problem playing on the island.
“For me, outside is easier than inside, because inside, you’re working on slot, quick receivers,’’ Huff said. “Outside is pretty much just press and run, more deep routes.’’
Huff was told by the previous regime he might be moving to cornerback this season. Allen said there was no thought given to that by his staff, but when asked why Huff could play corner, said, “speed and athleticism. That’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to be able to run and play out there on the edge and he can certainly do that.’’
Pittsburgh has two swift receivers in Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, and a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger whose strength is breaking out of the pocket and delivering passes off of broken plays.
Of Wallace, Huff said, “Fastest kid in the world. You see him on film and you see corners playing off . . . he is probably track Olympic fast, to be honest.’’
– Middle linebacker Rolando McClain was listed as questionable and will continue to work through the NFL concussion protocol.
Allen likened his situation to that of Jon Condo a week ago. Condo ended up playing against Miami. Francies, like McClain was limited at practice and listed as questionable with a concussion.
Right tackle Khalif Barnes (groin) was listed as out along with Spencer. Willie Smith is the likely starter, Allen said, although rookie Tony Bergstrom has taken reps at that position of late and Joe Barksdale is also available.
Place kicker Sebastian Janikowski (groin) is listed as questionable but Allen expects him to play.
Running back Mike Goodson tweaked a hamstring during Thursday’s practice and is listed as questionable. It’s not believed serious, but it will be a game-time decision.
– Two big names on defense were listed as out for the Steelers _ linebacker James Harrison (knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (calf). Also out is running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee).
– Fans entering the stadium an hour before kickoff Sunday will be eligible to win prizes such as field passes, locker room tours, autographed memorabilia and Raider merchandise. Check Raiders.com for more details.