By John Harris
Friday, October 6, 2006
The worst-kept secret in Pittsburgh is no more.
Cornerback Ricardo Colclough, the scapegoat for the Steelers' 28-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, is out as the team's No. 1 punt returner, coach Bill Cowher said yesterday.
And Colclough could be out for a lot longer.
Cowher said Colclough suffered a neck injury of undetermined origin and severity and will be sidelined indefinitely. Colclough, who was listed as questionable on the team's weekly injury report, missed practice yesterday to undergo testing.
That means Colclough will miss Sunday night's nationally televised game against the Chargers in San Diego.
It also means rookie wide receiver Willie Reid will make his pro debut returning punts and kickoffs.
"He's worked very hard," Cowher said of Reid, a third-round draft pick from Florida State who returned punts for 180 yards against Penn State in the 2006 Orange Bowl. "It's not always easy for young players to come in and sometimes have to accept a lesser role than what they had collegiately. This is his opportunity."
Cowher said Reid may also see action at wide receiver. He will be teamed with fellow rookie Santonio Holmes on kickoffs and punt returns.
"I'm very excited," said Reid, who received word of his promotion yesterday. "It's been a couple of weeks of waiting, being patient, working hard. Now it's going to pay off Sunday night."
Reid is an explosive punt returner. More important, he has good hands. He returned 10 punts for 88 yards without a fumble in the preseason. That makes him a superior option to Colclough, who returned four punts for a total of 6 yards this season.
By now, Colclough's story has been told so often it has become an unfortunate chapter in Steelers lore.
His muffed punt in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati led to a Bengals touchdown and raised questions as to why Cowher continued to use him as a punt returner despite his repeated struggles.
Reid promised that the Steelers' punt return woes are over.
"We have struggled catching punts. Hopefully, I'll be able to remedy everything," he said