The big headline coming out of the South Side on Tuesday was that four more Steelers players, including starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, had to be placed on the COVID-19 list as close contacts of positive case Vance McDonald and will miss at least five days’ worth of in-person practices and meetings.
But head coach Mike Tomlin relayed in his press conference some hopeful news about some players potentially returning from injury.
The Steelers played without defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, Nickel cornerback Mike Hilton and fullback Derek Watt in Sunday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys. But Tomlin thinks that all three have a chance to return to action against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on Sunday.
“We’re hopeful that we’re going to get a return from a number of guys that have missed some time,” Tomlin said.
Alualu was injured early in the Steelers’ Week 8 win over Baltimore and missed the trip to Dallas with an MCL sprain. He was replaced by Isaiah Buggs, who slid over from backup defensive end to starting nose tackle. Henry Mondeaux and Carlos Davis have also helped fill in on the defensive line.
Without Hilton, the Steelers have been using outside linebacker Alex Highsmith as a sub-package defense and Dime corner Cameron Sutton has seen his usage increase, as well.
The Steelers released backup fullback Trey Edmunds late last week when it appeared that Watt would be able to play, but Watt suffered a late-in-the-week setback and was scratched despite not appearing on the injury report on Friday. Mondeaux has also worked as a fullback at times this season.
Roethlisberger, who suffered a knee injury on Sunday, had been expected to be able to get in his usual practice reps before his COVID-19 designation.