Steelers Confident in Concussion Protocols for Kenny Pickett
PITTSBURGH — The NFL world will be watching on Sunday night as Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa makes his expected return from a concussion that caused him to miss the team’s last two games, and that attention might extend to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Tagovailoa was initially injured in Miami’s Week 3 game against the Buffalo Bills, but was allowed to return to that game and then play the following week. In Week 5, Tagovailoa took a vicious hit from Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou, hitting his head on the turf at Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium. Tagovailoa demonstrated a fencing response and was briefly hospitalized before being allowed to return to Miami with his team later that evening.
The Dolphins and head coach Mike McDaniel faced intense criticism for allowing Tagovailoa to return to the first game after he was injured and face another concussion the following week. The NFL and NFLPA investigated the first incident, with the union firing the unaffiliated neurologist monitoring the game and the league and union agreeing to intensified protocols for keeping players out of games going forward.
While the spotlight will be on the Dolphins during Tagovailoa’s return to the field in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football, it could very easily turn to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Steelers starting quarterback Kenny Pickett left Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third quarter with a concussion and did not return, but head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that he is expected to be able to practice in full this week and could suit up on Sunday night.
“If he’s cleared to play, he’ll play,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “It’s my understanding that his work won’t be limited in any way in preparation, and so we’ll adhere to the protocol, and we’ll follow that and let that be our guide in terms of participation.”
Tomlin understands that there could be intense scrutiny on his decision to play or not play Pickett, but said he stands by the processes that the Steelers have put in place, along with their partners at UPMC.
“We feel extremely comfortable about our medical experts in that area, and I’ve been consistent in my messaging in that regards,” Tomlin said. “This has no bearing on what’s been transpiring with the Joneses or other people around the National Football League. We just feel real good about our expertise. People from all over the world in football and other sport entities come to Pittsburgh to see our people. We’ll continue to lean on their expertise and follow their lead from a decision-making standpoint, and the things that are going on currently have little bearing on my mentality in that regard. I’ve just got that level of confidence in our people and what we do.”
Dr. Bennet Omalu, the physician that first diagnosed CTE in former Pittsburgh Steelers player Mike Webster while working at University of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County coroner’s office in Pittsburgh, urged Tagovailoa to retire from football after his series of injuries.
“If you love your life, if you love your family, you love your kids — if you have kids — it’s time to gallantly walk away,” Omalu said to TMZ. “Go find something else to do.”