PITTSBURGH — The Steelers looked to their safety to fill in admirably when their top four guys suffered injuries and missed their game against the Bengals. That meant that Patrick Peterson and Eric Rowe would start. While they leaped with Peterson, Rowe, a seasoned veteran, had not played all year. Rowe returning to form and playing at a level that could give them just enough needed to happen.
It did. Rowe notched his first interception as a member of the Steelers. It was something that Rowe and his wife had talked about before the game, but the formula to get that interception had little to do with Rowe and everything to do with the pass rush from Alex Highsmith. Still, despite some rough patches in the game with his talking angles, Rowe made plays in coverage. It was surreal for the first time being a Steeler to hear the crowd’s cheers, and Rowe, exhausted by the game’s end, wants to do it again.
“When I played the Steelers you could always see the towels rolling and feel the energy, but this time, it feels good to be on this side,” Rowe said. “I am so tired. You can do all the running you want, but game shape is (different). The only way to do it is be in the game — we use preseason games to kind of get it rolling, but we are in December and there’s no time for that. I was tired, first game back, but that will come along.”
It’s trial by fire for Rowe, but he is not foreign to the these types of games in December football. 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.
He won Super Bowls LI and LIII with the New England Patriots. 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.
But if you told Rowe or the Steelers they would be helping each other out at this point in the season, he would have no idea. Rowe sat on the couch and worked to stay in shape until he got that call from Pittsburgh.
“It’s pretty nice when you go to a team that historically has always been a stable program,” Rowe said. “It’s been tough and physical. I’ve played the Steelers in the past multiple times and it’s never easy. So, going to a program like this, you don’t get to pick where you play, but when they called me, I was like, “Dang, I get a chance to play for the Steelers.’”
Pittsburgh could still need Rowe next week against the Seahawks. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Trenton Thompson are banged up. But if Rowe can give them the coverage reps he did against the Bengals, they should be fine, even if the tackling needs some work moving forward.