Rookie Cornerback Marlon Humphrey Expects Steelers to Test Him Often


Ravens rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey knows it's his moment to be a full-time starter in Baltimore's lockdown defense. He knows the spotlight is on him.

Yet his emotions haven't caught up.

"I guess I'm excited. I don't know," he said Wednesday. "I'll get more excited as the clock ticks."

Humphrey has made a strong impression in Baltimore in part because of his even-keel personality. Nothing has seemed too big for the 16th-overall pick.

Perhaps it's the result of being the son of Bobby Humphrey, who was a star running back at Alabama and played in the NFL. Perhaps it's playing in multiple championship games at Alabama himself.

Now it's time to see if nothing is still too big for the rookie after a trip to Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, where he'll match up against NFL leading receiver Antonio Brown and gun-slinging veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with Jimmy Smith out for the year with a torn Achilles, Humphrey is now "the guy." Other cornerbacks such as Maurice Canady could help, but Humphrey expects to start and play the entire game. He also expects the Steelers will put him to the test.

"I'm sure if there's a weak link they have to pick out, it would definitely be me," Humphrey said. "Ben likes to throw it up, he's a great quarterback, so I'm sure if he has to take those shots, it will probably be at me."

Humphrey has passed every test thus far in his young career.

When he first arrived in Baltimore, the athleticism that he showed in college was immediately apparent. He could run with anybody, yet has the strength and physicality to challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage.

In his first extensive action, in Oakland when Smith went to the sideline with a sore Achilles, Humphrey gave up just three catches on six targets for 33 yards while facing receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.

Even when he was gashed for the first time in his young career last week, when Detroit Lions receiver Marvin Jones caught a pair of long passes against him and he surrendered 116 yards overall, Humphrey rebounded with a clutch fourth-quarter interception.

Now Humphrey knows some of the treatment that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford gave him in the second half of Sunday's 44-20 Ravens win will be replicated by Roethlisberger. And Humphrey isn't going to pitch a shutout.

"When you play that position – I don't care whether you're a rookie or a veteran – you're going to have moments where they'll make a play," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"Marlon seems like he has a good understanding of that. He plays hard, he plays focused, he's developing his technique and things like that. He's a very talented guy. I'm looking forward to seeing how he does. I think he'll do well."

Last year, when Smith went down in Week 14 in New England, there wasn't the same kind of confidence.

The Ravens were forced to lean on veterans Shareece Wright and Jerraud Powers. Wright didn't want to get beat and gave the Steelers wideouts too much room. As a result, they marched down the field and eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention with nine seconds remaining in the Christmas day game.

This time it's different with veteran Brandon Carr and Humphrey. They're two big, physical corners.

Carr said Humphrey's not there yet as far as his technique, and he doesn't know everything as far as the ins-and-outs of the receivers, but he can make up for a lot of things he hasn't learned yet with his speed and God-given ability.

Carr also said Humphrey is going to give up some plays, but he likes the rookie's composure. Carr got a good look at the rookie when he stepped in for Carr for nearly three quarters of the Ravens' Week 11 win in Green Bay, and during that time on the bench, Carr took some notes.

"He loves competing, loves to play the game, he has fun. His energy is incredible on the field," Carr said. "Ever since the Green Bay game, when I got a chance to sit back and watch him go out there and play, I just see where I should be to get back to, to have fun playing this game."

Time will tell if Humphrey continues having fun once the Sunday Night Football lights are on and he's lined up opposite Brown. Over his last three games, Brown has put up 28 catches for 414 yards and six touchdowns.

"He's an elite receiver, everybody says the best in the league," Humphrey said. "Definitely a good challenge; I'm looking forward to it."

And what about playing in Heinz Field for the first time?

"It looks like a pretty intense place," he said. "I love away games. I'm not a fan of the homes ones. I like getting booed more than I like getting cheered."

If that's the case, Humphrey should feel plenty comfortable this Sunday.

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