Ex-Steelers LB Suffered Season-Ending Injury vs. Panthers: Report

L.J. Fort

Patrick Smith/Getty Images Linebacker L.J. Fort of the Baltimore Ravens.

Early Sunday afternoon Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort suffered a season-ending knee injury (torn ACL) during Baltimore’s 20-3 preseason victory over the Carolina Panthers.

The news was confirmation of what the Ravens already feared.

“Unfortunately, it does not look good,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh in the immediate aftermath of last night’s game, referring to Fort’s apparent knee injury. “I think it got stuck in the Astroturf out there, unfortunately,” before noting that final word would come after an MRI.

Harbaugh went on to compliment Fort for his performance thus far in 2021.

“L.J. has been playing great, practicing great, leading our guys…. He’s in the weight room every morning at 5:30. It’s going to be an unfortunate injury for him if that’s what it turns out to be.”

L.J. Fort Joined the Ravens in 2019

Indeed the Ravens have been pleased with Fort ever since they first acquired him in October 2019, this despite the fact that they declined to pick up the option on his contract in March of this year, saving the team $2.25 million against the salary cap.

Fort, 31, was a mid-season acquisition in 2019 after he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles just four games in to a three-year contract, a move deemed necessary to preserve a compensatory draft pick.

The Ravens were impressed enough to ink Fort to a two-year, $5.5 contract extension after just four weeks with the team—a deal that included the aforementioned option for 2021. They quickly re-signed him to a one-year deal for this season, ending any speculation that he could be a low-cost replacement for Vince Williams, who had recently been released by the Steelers. (Williams subsequently re-signed with Pittsburgh, then abruptly retired on the eve of training camp.)

Fort’s NFL Journey

L.J. Fort originally entered the NFL in 2012—signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Iowa. He went on to spend time with the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots before he finally settled in with the Steelers starting in 2015.

He went on to appear in 44 games for Pittsburgh (two starts), during which time he was credited with 63 total tackles, plus seven quarterback hits, two sacks, four passes defensed and one recovered fumble.

He has had more success with the Ravens than he did in Pittsburgh, having started 16 games in 2019-20, this despite the fact that the Ravens drafted inside linebackers in the first and third rounds of the 2020 Draft, those being Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, respectively. Last year he produced a career high 53 tackles (32 solo).

All told, Fort has appeared in 91 NFL games with 19 starts, having amassed 191 total tackles (117 solo), with one interception, one forced fumble and five sacks, this according to Pro Football Reference. He also has three career fumble recoveries, two of which he has returned for touchdowns. One of those touchdowns came with the Steelers (vs. the Atlanta Falcons).

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