Seven starters and two key backups didn’t practice for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday as the team started its preparations at UPMC Sports Complex for its Week 6 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The secondary continues to be the hardest-hit area of the team when it comes to injuries, with cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring), Cam Sutton (hamstring) and Levi Wallace (concussion) and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee) all missing practice on Wednesday.
Strong safety Terrell Edmunds did practice fully, but remains in the NFL concussion protocol. Edmunds would be joined by Tre Norwood, Art Maulet, Josh Jackson and James Pierre in the starting secondary if none of the other injured players return this week.
Tight end also appears to be a problem spot for the squad, with starter Pat Freiermuth (concussion) and backup Zach Gentry (knee) both missing Wednesday’s practice session. Third-stringer Connor Heyward would be next in line to start, with Rodney Williams a candidate to be elevated from the practice squad. Both Freiermuth and Gentry were hurt against the Bills.
Defensive tackles Larry Ogunjobi (back) and Montravius Adams Sr. (hip) were both also held out of Wednesday’s session. Ogunjobi left early in the Week 5 game in Buffalo. Adams was able to finish the game but landed on head coach Mike Tomlin’s injury list on Tuesday. Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley would likely be in line to start alongside Cam Heyward on the line if those two can’t play. Heyward played through ankle and elbow injuries Sunday and was not listed on the injury report.
Elsewhere, center Mason Cole did not practice with a foot injury. Cole was limited last week, but did play against the Buffalo Bills. J.C. Hassenauer is Cole’s top backup.
Wide receiver Diontae Johnson was limited with a hip injury. He was similarly limited last week, but played in full against the Bills. Wide receiver/kick return Steven Sims (eye) practiced fully and was not listed on the injury report.
Safety Damontae Kazee (arm) has not returned to practice, but worked off to the side on his own and could be nearing a return. Wide receiver/kick returner Calvin Austin III (foot sprain) continued to practice for the second week of his 21-day window. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt (pec, knee) remains on IR and is not practicing.
The Buccaneers also have a lengthy injury list. Wide receiver Jaelon Darden (tooth), wide receiver Russell Gage (ankle), defensive tackle Akeim Hicks (foot), wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad), outside linebacker Carl Nassib (illness) and safety Logan Ryan (foot) all did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Safety Mike Edwards (elbow), wide receiver Chris Godwin (hip/knee) and tackle Donovan Smith (elbow) were limited.