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.