PITTSBURGH — Steelers cornerback James Pierre did not practice on Thursday with a shoulder injury that has nagged at the special teams gunner and reserve cornerback over the last few weeks. It’s not precisely clear when Pierre suffered the injury, but regardless, he is fighting through it during the season’s stretch run. Pierre missed Friday’s practice last week and was listed as questionable for their game in Cincinnati, but ended up playing.
The team would see more Darius Rush in that role if he could not go. With Pierre banged up last week, the team turned to Rush in the sub-packages instead of Pierre, and Pierre worked with the special teams units. Rush earned praise from the coaching staff when he played in those moments.
“Darius Rush, we thought we could use him last week,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “I know he played two weeks before that. I think his situation will be when we feel we can use him. He’s big, long, and fast. So, we kind of like that situation. We know J.P. (James Pierre) is going to be up, and J.P. has given us some quality reps during the course of the year. So, it depends on the kind of what we like scheme-wise whether he’s up, what he does, and all those different things.”
The Steelers are starting to get healthy in the secondary. Pierre is the lone injury as Minkah Fitzpatrick gears to return. Elijah Riley and Keanu Neal have landed on injured reserve with different injuries that continue to sideline them. But with the special teams struggles as of late, Pierre’s inclusion in the game plan might not seem significant initially, but it might be necessary. With so many young players going into that group, it can cause sloppiness and miscommunication, and that is something Pierre can at least help with on the field.