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OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are "very doubtful" for Monday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with Derrick Martin and Corey Ivy slated to start in their place, coach Brian Billick confirmed Saturday night.
McAlister didn’t practice all week due to a strained knee, and Rolle is contending with the same undisclosed illness that briefly hospitalized him and forced him to miss three games earlier this season.
When asked about the status of the two former Pro Bowl defensive backs for Monday’s pivotal AFC North game, Billick replied: "It’s doubtful, very doubtful."
Billick added that Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, who practiced the past three days as he recovers from a strained hamstring, will be a game-time decision.
This will be Martin’s first NFL start, and Ivy’s sixth this year.
"They’re going to be the guys," Billick said.
A sixth-round draft pick last year out of Wyoming, Martin intercepted his first NFL pass earlier this year against the St. Louis Rams. Now, Martin is preparing to match wits and footsteps with the likes of Pro Bowl wide receiver Hines Ward and speedster Santonio Holmes.
"This is what you grew up waiting for, I’m going to be ready," Martin said. "I’ve been waiting for this since I was a little guy. To go out that tunnel knowing that I’m starting, it’s going to be a blast."
Ward is known for his physical style, especially as a blocker, with some NFL observers labeling him as a dirty player.
"He plays football like it’s supposed to be played," Martin said. "I like the competition."
When asked about his level of concern for Rolle, who wasn’t present at Saturday night’s practice at the Ravens’ indoor practice field, Billick said: "Very, very, but we’ll work through it obviously. We have to do what’s in Samari’s best interest."
Seldom-utilized former third-round draft pick David Pittman, who has been inactive for the past three games, will operate as the nickel back.
"He’s going to be hugely involved in the nickel package," Billick said of Pittman.
Pittman was deactivated for every single game as a rookie last season, struggling to acclimate to the NFL after starring at the Division I-AA level for Northwestern State (La.)
This represents Martin’s sternest test yet as a professional.
"This is a great opportunity," said Pittman, who was burnt on a long pass during the preseason by Washington Redskins receiver Santana Moss. "This is the perfect chance to go out there and do whatever it takes to help this team win. That’s what it boils down to."
Kicker Matt Stover missed his second consecutive practice with an injury to his right kicking leg.
Rhys Lloyd would take his place if Stover is out.
"I think Matt will be all right," Lloyd said. "After he pulled it, he said he feels fairly fit. I think it will be a game-time decision. I hope he’s fit because of the guy that he is."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.