The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, and with that usually means the team’s defense needs to be up-to-snuff to slow down Josh Allen and company. Throw in the fact the game is in Buffalo, and without T.J. Watt, and it is a tall task.
As a team, the hope is the defense can be as healthy as possible heading into a big game like the one coming up in Buffalo. After the Steelers’ Week 4 loss to the New York Jets Sunday, the list of injuries to the defense was lengthy and riddled with key players.
Tuesday, Mike Tomlin addressed the media before the Bills game, and he updated the injuries prior to the AFC game.
Defensive captain Cam Heyward is dealing with two injuries at the moment, one to his elbow, and also an ankle injury. Tomlin was optimistic Heyward would be able to play on Sunday, but he could be limited early in the week.
As if two injuries to a defensive captain isn’t bad enough, the team’s All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is dealing with a knee injury which Tomlin said “will need to be managed” throughout the week.
More injuries to the secondary are less than ideal heading into Buffalo, and Cam Sutton dealing with both groin and hamstring injuries has the team looking for the next man up at cornerback. One player who isn’t going to be that next man up is Ahkello Witherspoon. Tomlin said Witherspoon’s hamstring injury is likely to have him out this week.
Safety Terrell Edmunds is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, which forced him to leave the game Sunday, and he will have to work his way back through the protocol. If he is cleared, he could be back in the secondary, but this process is literally day-to-day.
Tomlin added how these injuries might minimize players’ practice participation early in the week, but provides opportunity for those who are behind them on the depth chart. Adding how when these in-game injuries happen, the players coming in aren’t able to be as prepare in most weeks, but they will get plenty of those repetitions this week.
In the positive news category, Tomlin did acknowledge rookie receiver Calvin Austin III is eligible to return off Injured Reserve (IR) this week, and the team can start his 21-day window at anytime to get him back to practice and back on the field. Tomlin, while not saying it was a certainty, sounded as if that window could be started sooner, rather than later.
As always, Tomlin said any players availability will be dictated by their participation in practice. It will be the ultimate guide for whether they can play this Sunday when the team goes to western New York to play the high-powered Bills.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and updates surrounding the Steelers as they continue to press on throughout the 2022 regular season.
For a complete rundown of Mike Tomlin’s time with the media, check out BTSC’s Press Conference Recap podcast below: