When the Pittsburgh Steelers take on Atlanta two Sundays from now, the Falcons will be without one of their biggest weapons — second-year tight end Kyle Pitts.
Pitts had suffered what was believed to be an MCL sprain during his team’s win over Chicago Sunday, but Ian Rapoport tweeted Monday afternoon that an MRI confirmed that the Falcons’ standout tore the ligament. He’ll require surgery that will shelve him for a good chunk of time.
On the season, Pitts has 28 receptions for 356 yards and a pair of scores. He was on pace to be targeted more times this season than the last, when he was thrown to 110 times. He had a 1,000-yard receiving season as a rookie, with his average catching going for 15.1 yards.
Behind Pitts on the depth chart is Parker Hesse, a 27-year-old Iowa product who has 10 grabs for 93 yards in his two years with Atlanta. MyCole Pruitt, a seventh-year player, is also in that position room, along with former Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks. The latter is listed as out with an unspecified injury.
Even without the athletic Pitts, the Steelers will have to deal with the likes of Drake London and Olamide Zaccheaus in the passing game. London, a rookie from USC, paces the team with 409 yards receiving and Zaccheaus follows with 374.
The Falcons have a timeshare in the backfield made up of Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson. The former has 498 yards on the ground this go-round, while the latter is an all-purpose threat. Patterson claimed the NFL’s all-time record in kickoff return scores Sunday by taking one 103 yards back. It was the ninth kick return touchdown of his career.
Still, having Pitts would have added an extra dimension for veteran passer Marcus Mariota. It’s not every day that you find someone Pitts’ size who can run as fast as he does.
The Steelers will look to beat Indianapolis this Sunday before visiting Atlanta two weeks from now.