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Injuries Putting Question Marks in Steelers Pass Defense

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PITTSBURGH — The Steelers offensive injury bug has been well documented, with Ben Roethlisberger out for the season, Jaylen Samuels and James Washington out and Mason Rudolph’s availability in question for this week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.


But they might have a brewing injury problem in the defensive secondary, as well.

After apparently finishing Sunday’s Week 5 setback to the Baltimore Ravens at full health, head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Tuesday that cornerback Steve Nelson suffered a groin injury that game.

Nelson has been limited in each of the team’s first two practice sessions this week. Thursday, slot cornerback Mike Hilton suffered a foot injury and was also limited in practice.

Being a full participant in Friday’s practice will be the key to whether or not those two are able to suit up. If they can’t, that would remove two-fifths of the Steelers’ defensive backs from their Nickel and Dime packages.

That’s a real enough possibility that it was apparently on the mind of defensive coordinator

Keith Butler on Thursday. Butler said that he’s more confident in his defense’s ability to combat the matchup problems that Chargers slot receiver Keenan Allen presents this season.

When asked about the changes in personnel that may have put his defense in a better position to defend this season, Butler threw on the brakes.

“We will wait to see when we get there who we have available and stuff like that,” he said. “Hopefully, we will be OK in terms of our health for the most part and see what happens.”

Nelson is one of the key additions to the defense from 2018, along with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and linebackers Mark Barron and Devin Bush.

Barron has also not practiced this week after suffering a hamstring injury against the Ravens.

It seems like the Steelers’ infamous failure to properly cover Allen in 2018 was a driving force in the personnel changes they’ve made to their defense since then.

But the new-look Steelers might look a lot like the old-look Steelers if Barron, Hilton and Nelson can’t dress on Sunday.

Steelers

Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/23/20

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David DeCastro practices with the Steelers after missing the first two games of the season. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin explained to the media, including Mike Asti and Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, that he is evaluating DeCastro and he could start their week 3 game against Houston.

Joe Haden can also seen working on one-on-one coverage drills with the rest of the secondary.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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T.J. Watt Named AFC Defensive Player of the Week

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Leading up to his big matchup vs. his brother J.J and the Houston Texans, T.J. Watt was honored for his performance last Sunday.

Watt was recognized Wednesday morning as the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his effort against the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field. This was the third time in his career that Watt has won this award.

During the Steelers 26-21 win over the Broncos, Watt registered 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and four tackles.

Watt continues to be one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. Counting his performance on Sunday, Watt now has collected 37 career sacks, which is the most by any NFL linebacker since 2017. Here’s another interesting stat courtesy the Pittsburgh Steelers media relations department: Watt has 25 sacks in 25 career games at Heinz Field. Only three players in NFL history have registered more sacks over their first 25 career home games.

Watt and the rest of the Steelers defense will be challenged this Sunday as they host Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans at Heinz Field. Their 2-0 start has the Steelers tied with the Baltimore Ravens for 1st place in the AFC North.

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Tomlin Bringing Referees into Steelers Practice to Help Penalty Issues

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin thinks his team took too many penalties in their Week 2 win over the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field on Saturday, and he’s going to do something about it.

Tomlin said on Tuesday that he’s bringing referees into practice this week in order to help his team remain in compliance with the NFL rulebook on gamedays.

“It hurt our efforts on both sides of the ball,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “It hurt our efforts in terms of possessing the ball on offense. We had two critical holding calls in the first half that put us behind the chains and essentially stopped drives. Ball possession and drives, there’s too much scarcity in that discussion to get major penalties and throw yourself behind the chains. We’re just not good enough to overcome those things at this juncture, and quite frankly, I would imagine not many of us in this game are that good at this juncture.

“On the defensive side of the ball, we didn’t play clean enough on the back end on possession downs. They were able to extend drives through DPI and things of that nature. When you get people to that point to where you have them in a third down situation and you have the ball snapped and you’re executing the rush, there’s just too much ground covered to start over and give them a new set of downs. We have to get better in those areas.”

Special teams were also part of the problem, Tomlin said, as the Steelers had a Diontae Johnson punt return touchdown called back due to a block in the back. In total, the Steelers were penalized 10 times for 89 yards.

“We are not only analyzing and openly talking about the penalties, but we are working hard to rectify it,” he said. “We intend to bring some officials to our practice work this week in an effort to make a point of emphasis in that area. That’s important for us. Again, I just thought that was a catalyst for a lot of negativity in the game for us.”

Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said after the game that the team felt that “some of the calls weren’t going their way,” but Tomlin said they don’t consider whether or not they think a call should have been made when assessing and evaluating team performance.

“We coach. We don’t officiate the game,” he said “We are not assessing judgment based on what’s called. We are simply acknowledging what is called and we are making whatever necessary change in our behavior to make sure that it is not called moving forward. It’s as simple as that for us.”

Tomlin said the team is still working through the procedures to have the officials they want to use tested and able to be on the practice field at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex when the team returns to work on Wednesday.

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