The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed safety Keanu Neal on injured reserve with a rib injury, the team announced on Saturday. This move comes as a surprise, as defensive coordinator Teryl Austin indicated Neal as a potential game-time decision earlier in the week.
“I think those are going to come down to game time, as we get closer to the game, and we’ll see,” Austin said.
Neal’s injury occurred on his interception against the Green Bay Packers. At the end of the play, two Packers players fell onto him, driving him into the ground. Now, he will miss at least through Pittsburgh’s game against the New England Patriots on Dec. 7th. If he is healthy, he can return for the team’s ensuing matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Pittsburgh is missing Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has a hamstring injury, too. Fitzpatrick has missed three games since suffering the injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Pittsburgh worked out veteran defensive back Eric Rowe on Friday. He could be a potential player they look to sign with Neal’s injury now popping up as more severe than anticipated. Rowe, 31, has played for the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins since coming into the league as a second-round pick of the Eagles out of Utah in 2015.
A 6-foot-1, 205-pound defensive back, Rowe has split his career playing time equally between outside cornerback, slot cornerback and strong safety, while also spending time at free safety and linebacker.
Last season with the Miami Dolphins, he played 248 snaps at strong safety, 188 as a slot corner, 30 as a linebacker, 57 as a free safety and 44 as an outside corner.
In his eight-year NFL career, Rowe has played in 100 games and made 56 starts. He has recorded 381 tackles, 41 passes defended, seven tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, two sacks, six forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
For Sunday’s game, Trenton Thompson is expected to start next to Damontae Kazee. Elijah Riley could see snaps as well.