The Steelers have been bit hard by the injury bug this season
It’s no secret that the Steelers have had a wide range of injuries this season. Receiver Diontae Johnson and defensive lineman Cam Heyward both went down in Week 1 and missed the next month and a half of the season. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick dealt with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss a month. And now, quarterback Kenny Pickett will be out for 2-4 weeks with an ankle sprain.
The position group hit the hardest, though, has been inside linebacker. The Steelers lost Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander in consecutive weeks to season-ending injuries, and Elandon Roberts went down with a groin injury in Week 13 against the Cardinals.
When asked about the slew of injuries, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin didn’t mince words.
“Really nobody gives a sh*t,” Austin said. [We’ve] got to get it done.”
The Steelers gave up a 99 yard touchdown drive on the same drive in which Roberts was injured. The Cardinals targeted the middle of the field heavily and took advantage of the Steelers’ weakness to score before halftime.
The Steelers have dealt with a rash of injuries to the inside linebacker position, but as DC Teryl Austin says, “Really nobody gives a shit. You’ve got to get it done.”
“After the Cleveland game, there was some discussion that maybe a change needed to be made at the position because of the way Pickett had been struggling for those three games, right up until the mess in Cleveland,” Dulac said.
Instead, the team fired Canada with hopes that the move would boost Pickett’s performance. It worked for one game before the team and their quarterback went back to their old ways.
Heading into this season, the promise for Kenny Pickett was all there. He had an excellent preseason and training camp, and all the reports had him trending up. He even played some good football down the stretch of the 2022 season. Most of this hype was not contrived out of thin air. The stats did not back it all up, but Pickett’s tape was solid down the stretch. But it has not translated into the year. This has been a slog.
With Pickett now sidelined for two to four weeks after ankle surgery, it’s hard for me to tell you what they should do this offseason. Firing Matt Canada was supposed to spark the offense and give them a chance to see what Pickett could do without him. That small sample size got even tinier now. And Pickett has not shown enough flashes of being the guy to earn unquestioned starter status heading into year three. That stinks, but it’s the fact of the matter.
“T.J.’s held almost every play. That’s just how I feel,” Highsmith said. “He’s up there rushing like hell. He’s crazy. I can sense his frustration but he’s a guy who’s balls to the walls every single play. When he doesn’t get some of those calls he should get, it’s definitely frustrating.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin added that frustration is part of the game for a player like Watt, whose talent, pedigree and history of consistently excellent performance make him the target of double-teams, chip blocks and every method of slowing pass rushers an opponent can conceive of. That could make anyone a little cranky.