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Steelers Starter Remains Sidelined with Injury



Steelers SS Keanu Neal
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Keanu Neal talks with coach Grady Brown during the team's game against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 12, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Steelers safety Keanu Neal remains sidelined with a rib injury he suffered against the Green Bay Packers over a month ago. This was the first week Neal could have returned from injured reserve, but Mike Tomlin said on Monday that there would be no update on Neal and his condition. Generally, the signals bad news for a player when they are not even able to get on the practice field this far out.

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. Pittsburgh signed Eric Rowe for this exact reason, and Trenton Thompson has provided quality looks in that spot, too.

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.

Meanwhile, Thompson’s role has only grown with the Steelers. Even with the return of Minkah Fitzpatrick weeks ago, Thompson has maintained a steady role. If Neal returns at some point this season, it is unknown if Thompson will keep that role. However, since the updates on Neal are radio silent, he will likely miss even more time. Next week, fellow safety Elijah Riley will have a chance to be activated from injured reserve after he suffered a high ankle sprain. NFL teams get eight injured reserve activations yearly, but the Steelers have only used three, meaning they have plenty of room to accommodate the returning safeties.