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Steelers DB Victorian, Van Dyke ready for more

Steelers DB Victorian, Van Dyke ready for more

PITTSBURGH (AP) As the veteran member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' otherwise-youthful cornerbacks, Ike Taylor enjoys being among the first- and second-year players at his position meetings.

``I feel like they keep my young,'' Taylor said. ``Especially with the new young music coming up, the clothes, shoes, all that kind of stuff.''

This week, it's much more than music or fashion trends that have Taylor appreciating players such as Josh Victorian, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Curtis Brown and Robert Golden.

With Taylor sidelined with a fractured right ankle and top reserve Cortez Allen likely out with a groin injury, the likes of Victorian and Van Dyke are thrust into prominent roles.

Picked up late in training camp, neither was even active for games as recently as two weeks ago. But as the Steelers (7-6) head into Dallas (7-6), they'll be counting on the inexperienced cornerbacks to deal with the Cowboys' talented receivers.

``We tried to teach these young players like they are going to be starting because we know someday, they will be starting,'' Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. ``Unfortunately, we got a couple hits at the same spot. Generally speaking, throughout the course of a season, this happens every year. It's not a surprise that some of these guys are going to be starting and taking a significant amount of snaps. Hopefully they will be prepared and answer the challenge.''

The results were mixed in this past Sunday's game, the first without Taylor for the Steelers since 2006. Allen made his first career start, and fellow second-year pro Brown also was bumped up the depth chart to play in nickel packages.

Repeatedly picking on Brown and Allen, Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes and was 12-for-18 when passing on third down with eight of those completions going to receivers that either Brown or Allen was covering.

That led to coach Mike Tomlin benching Brown in favor of Victorian, who had been cut off the practice squad the week prior.

While acknowledging that was ``a big step,'' Victorian said he never doubted his abilities - not when he was cut five times by four teams in a 14-month span, and not when he was beat by Danario Alexander for a touchdown on one of his first plays in his first NFL regular-season game Sunday.

``To play corner not only on this team but in this league, you have to have confidence,'' the 5-foot-10 Victorian said. ``Coming up I wasn't always as big as everybody, so confidence is something that has been building in me since I was a young kid. I think I'm pretty confident now.''

Van Dyke was confident he was going to be drafted by the Steelers in 2011 after speaking multiple times with Tomlin. Instead, Oakland plucked him in the third round with the 81st pick, leaving Pittsburgh with Brown at No. 95 and Allen at No. 128.

Van Dyke started four of 14 games for the Raiders as a rookie last season but was cut at the end of this past training camp. The Steelers were happy to scoop him up but limited him to special teams during the first half of the season.

But multiple penalties that negated returns led to Tomlin deactivating Van Dyke five times in a six-game span before he was needed against the Chargers because of Taylor's injury.

``It's always good to put your hand in the pile, as coach Tomlin always says,'' Van Dyke said. ``I just have to go out and make plays and help my team win this game, do what coach LeBeau and coach Tomlin want me to do.''

During practice Friday, Victorian and Brown were the top two corners to play after Keenan Lewis, a first-year starter who himself fought through a minor hip injury this week. Golden, an undrafted rookie safety, also was given reps in nickel packages.

The Steelers secondary will depend upon to help deal with Dallas' Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, who all are on pace to have 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Between them, Victorian, Van Dyke, Brown and Golden have combined for four NFL starts.

``We will need every one of them, without a doubt,'' LeBeau said. ``They will all be playing.

``Hopefully, we have some quality depth. It's a challenge for us.''

Notes: LB LaMarr Woodley made it through an entire week of practice without setback or incident after missing the past two-and-a-half games due to an ankle injury. He is listed as probable to play Sunday. ... An apparent stomach virus is making its way through the Steelers locker room. LB James Harrison missed practice Wednesday and Thursday due to illness, and WR Antonio Brown, WR Plaxico Burress, reserve LB Stevenon Sylvester and LS Greg Warren were among those who were affected by it Friday.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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