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Steelers notebook: Gay, secondary brace for Saints QB Brees

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The Steelers' Ryan Shazier signals to the sideline after being injured during the first quarter against the Ravens on Nov. 2, 2014.

William Gay said his two interception returns for touchdowns this season have been the result of a disciplined defense playing within itself. So his getting beat for an 80-yard touchdown pass by Nate Washington on Monday simply was a lack of discipline.

It also was the result of cornerbacks having the freedom to take a few chances. Gay and Brice McCain have jumped a few routes but seldom have they been beaten as they were by Washington and New York Jets receiver T.J. Graham, who caught a 67-yard scoring pass.

“We try to be on our keys and hope you’re right,” Gay said. “Coach (defensive coordinator Dick) LeBeau always tells us the plays will come to us so just do our job.”

The secondary has two weeks to figure out a way to conquer New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. The Steelers are hoping to learn something from receiver Lance Moore, who caught 346 passes (38 TDs) in nine seasons with the Saints.

The Steelers last faced Brees in 2010, and he went 34 of 44 for 304 yards and two TDs in a 20-10 Saints victory.

Good time for a bye

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said the bye week comes at a perfect for time, considering five opening-day starters are missing from the defense because of injuries.

Cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm), safeties Troy Polamalu (knee) and Shamarko Thomas (hamstring), linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) and defensive tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) may be close to returning to practice before the Steelers face New Orleans on Nov. 30 at Heinz Field. But the team isn’t nearly as optimistic about linebacker Jarvis Jones, who two weeks ago had the pin removed from his injured right wrist.

“You can always convince yourself that it is the ideal time to have a bye week, but such is the case for us,” Tomlin said following Wednesday’s practice. “We have a lot of guys that are on the cusp of coming back from injury. Hopefully they will be on the other side of that as we come out of this thing and get back to playing football.”

Pressuring Brees

Linebacker Jason Worilds said he’s excited about the opportunity to face New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees after the Steelers’ bye week.

“I’ll watch the film from our last game to get a feel for him,” said Worilds, who played sparingly during the teams’ 2010 meeting.

Brees completed 34 of 44 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns against a defense that ultimately helped carry the Steelers to Super Bowl XLV. The Steelers, of course, will have a difficult time rattling the experienced Brees as they did Tennessee rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger in the fourth quarter of Monday’s 27-24 win.

“We were getting after (Mettenberger) even though we couldn’t get to him,” Worilds said. “We were able to get him off his rhythm because he felt our presence. We have to do some different things schematically against Brees. But if we get him on the ground, the ball can’t come out.”

Wilkinsburg’s new fan

Safety Will Allen said he’s holding a banquet Dec. 2 to celebrate the Wilkinsburg football team.

The undermanned squad made headlines this season for having just 13 players. Wilkinsburg finished 1-8, but Allen said he’s impressed with the players’ perseverance and resilience playing both sides of the ball with little rest.

Happy for Munchak

Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert said there was no more satisfying feeling than watching offensive line coach Mike Munchak, the former Titans head coach, smiling as the Steelers methodically wound down the clock at Tennessee.

“It was a chance for (Munchak) to come back, so I like the way we finished the game like,” Gilbert said. “It was awesome seeing him on the sidelines smiling. It was a culmination of all the things we’ve worked on since he’s been here.”

Harrison gets more time

Linebacker James Harrison has become entrenched at right outside linebacker.

Arthur Moats has started the eight games since Jarvis Jones went down with a wrist injury, but Harrison has worked himself into the lineup. The 12-year veteran was on the field for 31 snaps against Tennessee, compared to Moats’ 11.

Moats likely will get the start at New Orleans on Nov. 30, but Harrison probably will get more chances to chase Brees.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected]

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