OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens strong safety Tom Zbikowski acknowledged that he has withstood a challenge from newcomer Bernard Pollard to remain the starter.
Zbikowski is listed first on the depth chart and is slated to start in Sunday’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.
"That’s what we’re looking to see," Zbikowski said. "We’ve got plenty of packages. We’ll be rolling in and out. That’s not necessarily what’s going to be happening the entire game or the entire season. It’s just where we’re at right now. So, I’ll just keep playing and keep getting better."
Zbikowski and Pollard split starting duties during the preseason.
Zbikowski recorded four tackles, and Pollard finished with seven tackles, one sack, one interception and one fumble recovery with two pass deflections.
Zbikowski was declared the starter over Pollard, a former Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs starter who was signed to a two-year, $2.7 million contract.
"I don’t know one specific thing or anything like that, but just going about my business like I always do," Zbikowski said. "Training, staying in the film room, just making sure I’m on top of everything, and, just enjoying playing football. I really think that’s the biggest thing is just having fun and enjoying what you’re doing every day."
Zbikowski started six games at free safety last season when former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed was sidelined following hip surgery.
Now, he’ll open the season starting opposite Reed against the Steelers.
CHALLENGED: Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace made it abundantly clear that he’ll be targeting first-round rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith.
"He needs to worry about us," Wallace told Pittsburgh reporters. "He just needs to be ready, because we’re going to be coming at him. Man, we can take our shots deep on anybody. We don’t discriminate."
The Ravens plan to start two new cornerbacks in Smith and Cary Williams, a former practice squad player.
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and 6-1, 182 pounds, respectively, Smith and Williams are big, physical cornerbacks.
Wallace, though, has 4.33 speed in the 40-yard dash. He caught 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, leading the NFL with seven 100-yard games.
"I think they’re going to do great," Pagano said. "You know, they’ve put the time in. They’ve done a great job preparing; they’re studying. I can’t wait to see them go out there and play. They’ve got talent, they can run. So, I think they’re going to do fine."
PHILLIPS SIDELINED: Backup middle linebacker Jason Phillips didn’t practice Thursday due to a concussion.
He’s the lone player listed on the Ravens’ injury report.
It’s unclear when Phillips got hurt, but it was likely Wednesday when he participated fully in practice.
None of the Ravens’ injury concerns from the preseason are listed on the injury report, including center Matt Birk (left knee surgery), wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle), offensive guard Marshal Yanda (back spasms), rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor (bruised left shoulder) and cornerback Chris Carr (left hamstring).
Meanwhile, Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) was downgraded to not practicing. He was limited Wednesday.
For the past two days, reserve linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) hasn’t practiced.
Backup offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (concussion) was upgraded to full participation after being limited Wednesday.