The Steelers’ injury issues at running back piled up in a concerning way on Monday night, but head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that there is hope for a quick return to normalcy.
There was already one issue enter the game, as second-string back Jaylen Samuels was held out, as he is still working his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery.
In the first half, third-string rookie Benny Snell suffered an knee injury and he did not return. In the fourth quarter, starter James Conner injured the AC joint in his shoulder, leaving just fourth-string practice squad callup Trey Edmunds as the last healthy back on the roster to close out the 27-14 victory over the Dolphins.
But Tomlin said on Tuesday that Samuels is set for a return and probably could have played on Monday after being a full participant in practice as the Steelers came off their bye week.
“Jaylen Samuels’ availability is right on time,” Tomlin said. “Jaylen really got a clean bill of health at the end of last week and was available to us. Because of lack of work and the work of others, we chose not to play him. He will be ready to go in this football game.”
So the Steelers have at least two running backs ready to go for this Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, and despite the short work week coming off Monday Night Football, Tomlin remains somewhat optimistic about the chances for Conner to be able to suit up, even if he doesn’t get a full week of work in.
“It is going to limit him at the early portions of the week,” Tomlin said. “James has played enough ball, starting to get comfortable with him not requiring a complete week of work in an effort for him to play like it does some younger players. So, we will play it by ear. We will check his availability on a day-to-day basis and let that be our guide.”
Snell, on the other hand, would likely need a quicker return from his injury in order for Tomlin to give him the green light for Sunday.
“That may limit him, and he is the type of guy that if he gets limited because of youth and inexperience, it may affect his availability,” Tomlin said. “We will see where the week leads us with two running backs being treated in some form or fashion.”
In addition to Edmunds, the Steelers also have former Oregon speedster Tony Brooks-James on the practice squad and on Wednesday, signed Pitt grad Darrin Hall to the practice squad, as well.
Tomlin Bringing Referees into Steelers Practice to Help Penalty Issues
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.
Video: Kevin Dotson on First NFL Start, Confidence Level
Steelers rookie guard Kevin Dotson speaks with the media via Zoom after making his first career start in the Steelers second game of the 2020 season against the Denver Broncos.
While DeCastro’s return likely will mean an end to Dotson starting, it’s a testament to his skill and confidence level that he was able to play well in early in a season that lends itself to being more difficult for inexperienced players to fill in.
Steelers Super Bowl Odds Improve After 2-0 Start
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl odds have shortened after their 2-0 start to the season.
Opening the 2020 season at 22/1, the Steelers are now 20/1 to win Super Bowl LV, courtesy of BetOnline.ag.
The Steelers were not the only team to see their prospects rise, with the Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers also seeing their odds shorten.
After key injuries and inconsistency to start the year, the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers both have longer odds than where they began.
The Kansas City Chiefs — whose odds remained the same — and the Ravens are currently the favorites to win Super Bowl LV at 5/1.