Nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu (66) bears down on Saints quarterback Drew Brees in last weekend's game.
SARASOTA, FLA. – Alameda Ta'amu was hoping for an chance, but not like this.
The nose tackle, picked up via waivers at the end of the preseason after the Steelers cut him, got to start for the Cardinals in New Orleans after the father of Dan Williams was killed in a car accident.
"It sucked, knowing his situation," Ta'amu said. "My biggest thing was going out there for the D-line and the team and especially for Dan. It's unfortunate it had to happen but an opportunity came up and I will take it and try to run with it."
Williams will miss his second straight game Sunday. The funeral of Thomas Williams will take place Saturday in Memphis, and defensive end Calais Campbell and some of his teammates are planning on making the trip over from Florida to attend the service and be there for their friend.
"Dan is doing pretty good, relatively speaking, for what he is going through," Campbell said. "Dan is probably my best friend in the NFL. I see him as a brother, and I got to know his family very well over the years and he knows my family very well.
"This week especially, with Tampa Bay being a running team, we really could use him. But we are going to go out and support him."
In the meantime, Ta'amu will be in the middle.
"This was his first real fire in a real game and he handled himself extremely well," coach Bruce Arians said. "He got good push and rocked some guys heads back. He's a load. Even if Dan were back I think we would still have him up. He's earned his right."
Ta'amu had a checkered rookie season with the Steelers last season, getting suspended for two games after being arrested for a DUI and then later waived before being re-signed. He did not play in any games and admitted, "I felt like I red-shirted last year."
But against the Saints, "after that first hit, you pick up where you left off," Ta'amu said.
Williams is expected to return to the team Monday.
"I think they miss (Williams) mentally, emotionally," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "But Meda has done a good job. It's just a tragic situation right now. You try to survive until Dan gets back."
CAST AWAITS JOHNSON IF HE PLAYS
Safety Rashad Johnson was at practice Friday testing out his injured left finger in a football situation. He is officially questionable for the game, although Arians sounded like that probably would happen.
"His leadership is something I value and I'd like to have him out there," Arians said, who added that Johnson would play a backup role and perform on special teams.
Johnson said his pain in the finger is about a "four out of a 10." If he plays, "I'm going to go out, let it loose and play ball," Johnson said. "You can't play in fear. That's when you make mistakes."
In addition to Williams missing the game, linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) also will not play.
The Buccaneers' top two receivers, Mike Williams (hamstring) and Vincent Jackson (ribs) each were upgraded to limited Friday and are listed as questionable for the game. Also questionable is cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hamstring). Out for the game are cornerback Michael Adams (knee), tackle Gabe Carimi (illness), tight end Tom Crabtree (ankle) and defensive tackle Derek Landri (knee).
LIMITING YOUTHFUL MISTAKES
Arians remains frustrated with mental errors, including by rookies who are playing key roles.
"There's no excuse being a young guy, because they've had plenty of snaps," Arians said. "We had a third down where we had two guys in motion, Patrick (Peterson) moved his feet and (rookie running back) Andre Ellington was in motion. Andre Roberts told him to freeze. (Andre) knows what freeze means. He didn't freeze. We get a penalty instead of a first down. Those are the kind of things that are hurting us right now."
Another play, Arians said, was the third-and-3 pass on the Cards' second possession. Rookie running back Stepfan Taylor went two yards on the catch and couldn't break the tackle, ending the drive.
Taylor said he thought he had run the right pattern.
"There is still a lot I don't know, and that's about being on the field and getting game time and experience," Taylor said. "You try not to have the mindset of being a rookie."