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Steelers Excited to Finally Field Healthy Defensive Line: ‘Perfect Time of the Year’



Steelers DL Montravius Adams
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive linemen Montravius Adams and Larry Ogunjobi rush Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence on Oct. 29, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are getting the band back together on the defensive line. Or maybe more accurately, they’re putting it together for the first time.

The Steelers had their full complement of defensive linemen for the first two quarters of the season against the San Francisco 49ers before Cam Heyward bowed out with the groin injury that eventually required surgery and caused him to miss most of the 2023 season to date.

Heyward returned to the lineup in Week 9 against the Tennessee Titans. Two plays into that game, nose tackle Montravius Adams went down with an ankle injury.

Adams is set to return to action this week, when the Steelers take on the Arizona Cardinals, after being limited in practice last week. All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is expected to be back, as well.

“Right now, just ease into it during the week, test it out and see how it is,” Adams said before practice on Wednesday. “But I think I’m pretty much right there on the curve. I think today and tomorrow will be the best test of the week. Get a couple double teams and see how they feel. For right now, I’m ready to go.”

The Steelers defense has done fine despite its struggles to stay healthy. The Steelers have missed Adams, Heyward and Fitzpatrick for long stretches. Linebackers Kwon Alexander and Cole Holcomb are out for the season.

“I didn’t even get two series with Cam,” Adams said. “Got guys growing, guys playing better since I’ve been out. It’s going to be good to be back with everybody and continue to grow.”

Yet the team enters Week 13 fifth in the NFL in scoring defense and fourth in turnovers. They’re 11th in yards per play against. They’ve improved recently in yards against, especially against the run, where they have allowed 121 yards over the last two games combined and under three yards per carry.

The feeling on the defense is that with Adams back in the fold, and the growth that youngster Keeanu Benton has shown in his time in the spotlight due to multiple injuries, that the best is yet to come for that unit.

“Most definitely,” Adams said. “We’ve played better, but definitely still some room to grow. It’s a lot of young guys on this team, so it’s actually a lot of room to grow. … For this defense and this team, I honestly think the sky is the limit.”

While the Steelers would certainly have preferred to play the season with a healthy defensive front, if they had to pick a time of year to get healthy, the calendar turning over to December is as good as any. 

“Perfect time of the year,” Adams said.