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Mike Tomlin discusses options at fullback with Nix possibly missing multiple games

Being a position the Steelers rarely use, the strategy to put a fullback on the field if needed may require some creativity

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One surprise injury which was brought to light and Mike Tomlin‘s press conference on Tuesday was an injury to the knee of fullback and special teams captain Roosevelt Nix.

“Rosie Nix is one that’s probably a little bit different worth mentioning,” Tomlin stated. “He’s got a knee injury that’s being evaluated. He may miss this game and another or two. I’ll have more information and as we gather it regarding him, but he is one I don’t think I specifically mentioned after the game.”

With the Steelers faltering on three drives in the second quarter in where they only needed one yard to gain a first down, Tomlin was asked if Nix’s injury contributed to not effectively running the ball on short situations.

“ No excuses in that regard.”

Tomlin’s answer is appropriate since the only play in which Nix saw the field on offense was coming out of the two minute warning of the first half on the fourth down and one play. Ben Roethlisberger instead chose to call a time out and go with all five of his eligible receiver spread out wide with Nix going back to the sideline.

Whether it be by choice or due to injury, the Steelers did not run one single play with a fullback Sunday night against the New England Patriots. If a fallback is in the plans for the Steelers in Week 2, they will be looking to fill the position in other ways. With only one spot on the roster and it being a position the Steelers use so infrequently, it does not make sense to add a player at this time. Therefore, the Steelers are left looking for other options already on their roster if they hope to employ the fullback in any of their offensive schemes this week.

Tomlin was asked if there’s a player on the roster to fill in at fullback for this coming game.

“We have some candidates,” He answered. “We spent some time, as we always do, looking at other options in areas where we don’t have a lot of depth. The fullback position is a area that we don’t have a lot of depth so we’re not opposed to looking at other people. We spent some time looking at defenders in the spring and summer, but we’re also capable of looking out and utilizing tight ends which we have done in the past quite regularly.”

While there are some possible players to fill the position which may come to mind, Tomlin was asked specifically if Tyler Matakevich is one of the candidates in-house to play fullback.

“We’re just at the beginning stages of discussing that. If we need a fullback, there will be somebody representing that position on Sunday I assure you of that.”

It will be interesting to see what the Steelers do at fullback this Sunday in their home opener at Heinz Field against the Seattle Seahawks. While any of the current tight ends on the roster could fill the position, Vance McDonald should be thought of more as an asset in the receiving game in the coming weeks. Additionally, Zach Gentry was not active on Sunday and has struggled with blocking from the tight end position. Xavier Grimble may be the best candidate who could move to fullback should the Steelers decide they need one.

Another option is using an additional offensive lineman in the backfield much like the Steelers do when they choose to have an extra tight end. An athletic player such as Chukwuma Okorafor could be made active just to be a fallback, but this scenario is somewhat unlikely.

While the Steelers used OLB Sutton Smith at fullback early in training camp, his lack of availability throughout the preseason made him expendable to where he did not even earn a spot on the Steelers practice squad. There could another linebacker asked to fill the position such as Ulysees Gilbert III or Tyler Matakevich who was mentioned before. Beyond that, any defender used as a fallback would be pure speculation.

So what do you think the Steelers should do at the fullback position if Roosevelt Nix is unable to play Sunday? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.