You lose Cam Heyward for the season with a pectoral injury. A crippling blow to the defense as a whole, but especially the defensive line. You also lose Stephon Tuitt with a short-term knee sprain, and suddenly the defensive line resembles Swiss cheese more than a Steel Curtain.
While Tuitt missed his second consecutive game against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17, the dominating presence along Pittsburgh’s defensive front has declared he will be playing when the Miami Dolphins come to Heinz Field for the AFC Wild Card game.
Stephon Tuitt said he's playing Sunday. Said he feels great and said he's still "salty" about the first Miami game.— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) January 2, 2017
Sure, this could simply be Tuitt thinking, and talking, positively heading into the first round of the playoffs, but the Steelers will desperately need Tuitt back in the lineup to help slow down the Dolphins’ rushing attack, primarily Jay Ajayi, who rushed for over 200 yards against the Steelers defense in their Week 6 meeting in Florida.
It would be this performance which would have Tuitt “salty” about playing the Dolphins again, but a lot has changed between both the Steelers and Dolphins since their last meeting. As all Steelers fans can remember, it was in the second quarter of the 30-15 loss in Week 6 when Ben Roethlisberger injured his left knee and was forced to leave the game. Although he returned to play the entire second half, he was unable to be under center due to the injury, and missed the next week’s game before their bye week. Roethlisberger is now healthy, and so are Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Maurkice Pouncey.
On the other side of the field will also be a significant difference. Ryan Tannehill, who hit several big passes to Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker in Week 6, will likely be out with a knee injury and Matt Moore will be the signal caller in the Wild Card game.
The Steelers won’t be apologetic about playing a backup quarterback, nor should they be, but getting players like Tuitt, Ladarius Green and Sammie Coates back on the field will certainly help their efforts as they look to advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs where they would face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium if they were to get revenge on the Dolphins this Sunday.