Victorian's 2012 baptism by fire may pay off with secondary depth in 2013

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Undrafted rookie cornerback Josh Victorian was signed off the practice squad by the Steelers and thrown into the starting lineup in a Week 15 game against Dallas last season. While Victorian didn't help Pittsburgh clinch a playoff spot, the experience he gained down the stretch in 2012 may pay off if he has to step in this season and once again fill a major role in a banged up secondary.

Of all the critical injuries the Steelers suffered last year, from Ben Roethlisberger's SC joint sprain, to Troy Polamalu's torn calf, to LaMarr Woodley's fat hamstring, maybe the most critical was the fractured ankle Ike Taylor sustained in a Week 13 victory against the Ravens.

Taylor's injury occurred just as Polamalu returned to action. And while it was definitely considered important I don't think many realized how much Taylor would be missed in the secondary. And to compound matters A LOT, Cortez Allen, the young stud designated to start in Taylor's place, was hurt against San Diego a week later.

In the game against the Chargers, second year cornerback Curtis Brown was taken to school by Philip Rivers and Co., so that made it pretty hard for the coaches to have confidence in him as the number two corner, opposite Keenan Lewis, now the number one corner on the depth chart.

If the Steelers couldn't count on a second year man who was picked in the third round out of Texas to fill in in a key Week 15 game in Dallas, who could they count on? Surely, not some guy from the New Olreans VooDoo of the Arena Football League, right?

Wrong.

In steps Josh Victorian, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Louisiana Tech, who, according to his wikipedia page, was signed by Baltimore in 2011 and released before the start of the season.

During the 2011 campaign, Victorian was signed and released from the Patriots practice squad four different times without ever getting the call up to the 53-man roster.

In January of 2012, Victorian signed a reserve/future contract with the Saints, but he obviously didn't have much of a future there, because he wound up signing with the New Orleans VooDoo of the Arena Football League later that summer.

In August of last year, Victorian was in Latrobe trying out for the Steelers, but he was eventually released and, again, relegated to the practice squad (this time in Pittsburgh), where he remained until early December, when he made his debut against the Chargers and saw five plays worth of action.

That was Victorian's career prior to December 16th, and this was the guy that Steelers fans had to count on to hold the fort for a secondary that was the best in the league against the pass?

How did Victorian and the rest of Pittsburgh's secondary perform? Not so great, as Tony Romo racked up 328 passing yards and two touchdowns--including 77 given up by Victorian--and the Cowboys won in overtime, 27-24.

Allen was back for the final two weeks, but Victorian did continue to see playing-time and add depth to the banged-up secondary, as Taylor missed the remainder of the year, and Lewis also struggled to stay healthy down the stretch.

Despite the atrocities against San Diego and Dallas, the Steelers secondary did finish the year number one against the pass, so Victorian has to be given at least a little credit for coming into a difficult situation with virtually no experience to speak of and performing yeoman's work.

So, does this mean Victorian should get a crack at a starting job or even the third corner this training camp? Probably not. But sometimes the best way for a rookie to learn is by baptism by fire. Going against the likes of Rivers and Romo, and trying to cover targets the caliber of Antonio Gates and Dez Bryant, is certainly a quick way for a rookie defensive back to gain valuable experience. Victorian gained a lot in a short period of time last December, and now with the secondary banged up again this training camp, we'll quickly get to see if that experience turns into something the Steelers sorely need at various positions, including the secondary: Adequate depth.

Fans are certainly familiar with how quickly a season can unravel because of a key injury and inadequate depth. Not only were the Steelers' starting defensive backs banged up a year ago, their back-ups were also hurt.

Out of desperation, Pittsburgh had to throw a practice squad player into the fray with the playoffs on the line. And while Victorian didn't help clinch a postseason berth, he may have put a down-payment on a career as a valuable back-up corner...... or maybe even better.

Secondary coach Carnell Lake has been given a ton of credit for the work he's done with Lewis, Allen, William Gay and a host of others.

Josh Victorian may soon be added to his resume.

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