Two defensive starters are questionable due to injury for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their must-win Week 18 battle with the Cleveland Browns, the team announced on Friday. Starting free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and inside linebacker Myles Jack are both questionable. Backup safety Tre Norwood has been ruled out.
Fitzpatrick suffered an ankle injury in the second half of the Steelers’ Week 17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He was able to return to that game and made the game-sealing interception on the final defensive snap. But head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that he expected Fitzpatrick to be limited in practice this week, and in fact he did not practice on either Wednesday or Thursday. Fitzpatrick was limited in Friday’s practice session before being declared questionable.
Jack has been dealing with a groin injury for several weeks. He missed the Week 15 games against the Carolina Panthers, played limited reps in Week 16, then started the Week 17 game against the Ravens, but couldn’t finish it. Jack did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday and was limited on Friday.
If Fitzpatrick cannot play, Damontae Kazee should be expected to start in his absence. Norwood, who will miss his second consecutive game with a hamstring injury, would normally be the fourth safety and dime defensive back. Instead, that role will fall to Elijah Riley.
Expect Robert Spillane to start at linebacker and play most of the snaps against the run-heavy Browns whether or not Jack is able to dress, with Devin Bush and rookie Mark Robinson sharing the other reps.
Left guard Kevin Dotson, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith (ankle), wide receiver Diontae Johnson (hip), slot cornerback Art Maulet (illness), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (toe) and outside cornerback James Pierre (concussion) were all less than full participants in the week of practice, but do not have injury designations and are expected to play on Sunday.