Steelers right cornerback Deshea Townsend prepared himself during training camp for the new role that coach Mike Tomlin said he may have to assume Monday night against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field.
Strong safety Troy Polamalu is out with a sprained knee. Tyrone Carter will start for Polamalu. That leaves a vacancy behind Carter since backup Grant Mason joined the team a little more than a week ago and hasn't played in an NFL game.
Enter Townsend, who will fill in at safety and play wherever the team needs him. "I like playing corner, but I'm going to do whatever this team needs me to do,'' said Townsend, a 10-year veteran with 18 career interceptions. "This (playing safety) works out in my favor because when we play the nickel it's kind of like a strong safety in a lot of instances. It wouldn't be new for me to get down in the box because when I go inside and play, I'm in the box a lot.''
Tomlin mentioned Townsend's versatility last week when he said Townsend practiced at safety during training camp just for situations like this one.
With veteran Ryan Clark out for the season, the Steelers need more veteran experience at safety. Townsend, who has been a full-time starter since 2004, was considered the best candidate to make the switch from cornerback.
"Deshea is safety capable. We spent some time in training camp working with him at that position,'' Tomlin said. "Actually we spent quite a bit of time for instances such as these.''
Townsend will open at right cornerback against the Dolphins. But he could switch to strong safety in the event of injury or in certain packages. When that occurs, Bryant McFadden likely will replace Townsend at cornerback.
"It wouldn't be anything different, but it'll be the first time for me having to make some checks,'' said Townsend, who interected his second pass of the season last week against the New York Jets. "It's all about getting lined up, reading your keys and going to the football.
"TC (Carter) will do fine, he'll do great. But if anything happens to him, I'll be ready.''
When told that former Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson extended his career when he switched to safety, Townsend said he considers himself a cornerback first but that anything is possible in the future.
"As of right now, I'm enjoying playing corner,'' Townsend said Friday. "If (playing safety) can get me three or four more years in the league, I'll most definitely try it on for size. I'll do whatever's asked.''