Stevenson Sylvester's knee injury and subsequent surgery was initially thought to sideline him for three to four weeks.That was about six weeks ago.
Maybe the Steelers were just easing him back into the mix, waiting for their early bye week to help keep him fresh for the long season. Whatever it was, Sylvester will dress for the first time in the 2012 season when the Steelers host Philadelphia at 1 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh.
Sylvester was an early contestant for the starting buck linebacker position, but would likely have started the season as a reserve even without the injury. Still, he provides an upgrade in terms of athleticism over veteran Larry Foote, and could see time in the variety of nickel package groupings the Steelers have run so far this season.
They've shown both a 4-2-5 ("Big Nickel") with Foote and Lawrence Timmons as the two linebackers. In their 2-4-5, the base linebackers were on the field.
Sylvester is a bit bigger and faster than Foote, and if he's mentally prepared, he could provide the Steelers with some much-needed depth. They already lost rookie Sean Spence for the year after a gruesome knee injury in the team's final preseason game. Brandon Johnson has been serving as Foote's backup, but Foote has barely left the field. He played every snap in Pittsburgh's Week 3 loss at Oakland, and was in on 56 of the team's 58 plays in a Week 2 win over the Jets.