Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is one of the more brash and boastful players in the National Football League. And, with 25 interceptions in his eight-year career, he is usually able to back up his bark.
Cromartie is one of the top trash-talkers in the league, but he is also the player entrusted with replacing Darrelle Revis as the Jets' shutdown cornerback. And he will get a chance to back up his talk today when he faces Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who has posted big numbers the past two games.
"I can go out there anytime I want to and go shut down any receiver I feel like it," Cromartie said in an interview in the New York Post. "That's how I feel. I don't need help. I don't need none of that. I can cover every receiver one-on-one."
Cromartie and the rest of the Jets defense are a lot like the Steelers. They have only three takeaways -- third fewest in the league behind the Steelers (0) and San Diego Chargers (2) -- and just one interception.
But they rank second in the league in total defense and run defense and 13th against the pass. Typically, coach Rex Ryan would use Cromartie to shadow Brown, who has 21 catches for 284 yards in the past two games and leads the team with 32 catches.
Cromartie, though, injured his knee in practice Thursday and his status for the game is uncertain.
"I don't know what they're going to do," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "We've seen him shadow receivers so we'll find out what they think of [Brown] from that standpoint. They've got a lot of capable cornerbacks, starting with [Cromartie]. ... They put a lot on the corners and ask them to sit out there on an island at times against real good receivers."
Brown has been that and more the past two games.
Against the Chicago Bears, he tied his career high with nine catches and set a career high with 196 receiving yards. Then, in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Brown set a career high with 12 catches for 88 yards.
After having an animated sideline discussion with Haley in Cincinnati in which he complained he wanted the ball more, Brown has been the favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger.
That's why he thinks he will draw Cromartie's attention when the Steelers and Jets play at 1 p.m. today in East Rutherford, N.J. If Cromartie is able to play, that is.
"I mean, he usually takes the guy they want to take out, so I'm thinking that's a real possibility," Brown said. "He's a big corner with long arms, a long stride, who can run. He's an explosive player who can break on the ball."
Cromartie is listed at 6 feet 2, 210 pounds, but his long arms give him a considerable advantage, especially against smaller receivers such as Brown.
"He's a freak of nature," said cornerback Ike Taylor. "His wingspan is unbelievable. Honestly, if you wanted to, you could put him at receiver. That lets you know, as a cornerback, what he brings to the table as an athlete."
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @gerrydulac. First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM