Three times in a short period Wednesday, receiver Mike Wallace called Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis a "great player." He continued gushing that the former Aliquippa and Pitt star is "probably the best in the league at what he does."
Shouldn't matter, Wallace said, because he believes he and the rest of the Steelers receivers are up to the task of beating one of the best secondaries in the NFL.
"At the same time, we have some good players," Wallace pointed out. "We're not scared of anybody. We've just got to play our game."
The juiciest matchup of all for the 4:25 p.m. game Sunday at Heinz Field will pit Pro Bowlers Wallace and Antonio Brown, along with Emmanuel Sanders and Jerrico Cotchery, against a Jets secondary that includes Revis and onetime Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie at cornerback, nickel corner Kyle Wilson and safety LaRon Landry.
The Steelers expect Revis to play even though he was diagnosed with a concussion in a game Sunday against Buffalo and did not practice Wednesday.
Cromartie took an interception back for a touchdown against Buffalo and Wilson also picked off a pass. The Jets famously play man-to-man coverage and dare receivers with press coverage near the line of scrimmage.
Wallace expects Revis to cover Brown and for Cromartie to stay with him, as he did in their two 2010 games. Wallace caught seven passes for 102 yards against the Jets Dec. 19, 2010, and Cromartie intercepted one pass in that Jets victory. Wallace caught one pass for 6 yards a few weeks later against the Jets in the AFC title game, which the Steelers won.
"Most of the time, I got Cromartie because of the matchup of our skill sets," Wallace said of those games. "AB is a shorter, quicker guy and Revis is a shorter, quicker guy. I think our first year [Sanders] might have had Revis. Mostly, by me being long-strided, as Cromartie, I think he matches up better with me."
Again, Wallace offered that it did not matter who covers him or his teammates.
"I like to see anybody who lines up in my face. I don't care who it is. I feel like we've got good guys all over the field so it doesn't matter if he's on me, AB, Emmanuel Sanders or JCotch. We have a lot of different players to give them a tough challenge. Like I said before, he's a great player and he's going to be ready to play. We just have to come with our 'A' game."
If it's Revis vs. Brown, who led the Steelers in the opener with 74 yards on four catches, that's OK with Brown.
"We want to do what we do regardless," Brown said. "We don't let no man take [control] of the situation of what we do. We love to see one-on-one coverage; you have to beat your man to win."
Jets coach Rex Ryan expects the Steelers to test his secondary.
"A lot of times we will put our guys out there on their islands, especially Darrelle Revis," Ryan said Wednesday. "We will see. Certainly, we have to mix things up with the Steelers. Their two receivers are explosive guys. Then you add Sanders, which makes it difficult. And they have Jerricho Cotchery. I have a ton of admiration for him. He is a tremendous receiver as well."
The Steelers signed Cotchery before the 2011 season after the Jets released him at his request that summer.
Santonio Holmes returns to Heinz Field for the third time since the Steelers dealt him to the Jets before the 2010 season, and he will get a warm greeting Sunday from at least one person.
"I love Tone. That's my guy. I still talk to Tone today," Wallace said.
Holmes was in his fourth season with the Steelers, coming off a Super Bowl MVP performance, and Wallace was a rookie third-round draft pick put behind him at the split end or "X" position in 2009.
"He was helpful when I first got here," Wallace said. "Tone was never a selfish guy. He wasn't a guy who would leave you out to dry.
"In the first day or two, I didn't really even know how to run a route. Tone was there for me, 35-40 minutes after practice, running the same route over and over, just trying to help me get it. I have a lot of respect for Tone."
The Steelers traded Holmes to the Jets for a fifth-round pick right before the 2010 draft. The reasons may have included some inappropriate comments Holmes made on Twitter, his run-ins with the law, the fact he was about to enter the final year of his contract and the presence of Wallace, who averaged 19.4 yards on 39 receptions as a rookie. The Steelers used a sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft to select Antonio Brown.
"He was the X, that's what he played and that's what I really played," Wallace said of Holmes. "He helped me out and I really appreciate that for him. Every day, he helped me get better. He was a great teammate."
Holmes has not come close with the Jets to the numbers he produced with the Steelers. He caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards in 2009 and never had fewer than 821 yards in four Steelers seasons. He hasn't topped 746 in either season with the Jets.
James Harrison missed his third consecutive practice -- along with Sunday's game -- because of continued negative response in his left knee that underwent surgery Aug. 15. He went through one full practice Sept. 3 and a partial practice Sept. 5, and has been out of uniform since then.
Better news for the Steelers arrived when tackle Marcus Gilbert and guard Ramon Foster went through a full practice. Both said they are fine and will start Sunday.
Halfback Jonathan Dwyer was held out of practice because of a foot injury, but he is expected to play Sunday.
As coach Mike Tomlin predicted, Troy Polamalu (calf strain) did not practice. Linebacker Steven Sylvester again did not practice and is not expected to play as he recovers from a preseason MCL knee sprain.
Rashard Mendenhall continued to practice as he tries to return to play from ACL surgery he had in January.Steelers
First Published September 13, 2012 4:00 AM