Steelers All-Pro Defender Ruled out vs. Saints

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin

Eric Espada/Getty Images Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 23, 2022.

On the same day the Pittsburgh Steelers activated outside linebacker T.J. Watt to the active roster the team lost the services of another All-Pro defender. Early on Saturday afternoon, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick would miss Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints with appendicitis.

Shortly afterwards the Steelers confirmed the news, revealing that the two-time first-team All-Pro has been downgraded to ‘out’ against the Saints.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fitzpatrick attended Saturday’s walk-through practice “when he complained about discomfort” and was subsequently diagnosed with appendicitis.

In turn, that prompted the team to elevate former Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets safety Elijah Riley to the active/inactive roster.

Riley, 24, came to the Steelers in the latter part of August when the Pittsburgh claimed him on waivers from the Jets. He has spent most of the 2022 season on the practice squad, but played nine snaps on defense against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6 and was credited with one solo tackle. He figures to get snaps against the Saints, though Tre Norwood will likely get the start in Fitzpatrick’s absence.

Riley, a former undrafted free agent out of Army, has played in 14 career games (with seven starts). He has been credited with a total of 46 tackles (24 solo), including three tackles for loss, one pass defensed and one quarterback hit. All seven of his starts came with the Jets in 2021.

Ben Roethlisberger Missed the Season Opener in 2006 With Appendicitis

Notably, this isn’t the first time that a Steelers player has been diagnosed with appendicitis ahead of a regular-season game. Former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needed an emergency appendectomy four days before the 2006 season-opener against the Miami Dolphins.

Roethlisberger missed just one game but was ineffective when he returned to play 15 days after surgery. In fact, he played one of the worst games of his career in a 9-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He completed just 17 of 32 passes for 141 yards with two interceptions and a passer rating of 38.7, as per Pro Football Reference.

CB William Jackson III to Injured Reserve

In another move of some significance, the Steelers placed recently-acquired cornerback William Jackson III on injured reserve with a back injury. Jackson had already been ruled out of Sunday’s game, but now the earliest he can return to the lineup is Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Steelers gave up a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick in exchange for Jackson and a conditional 2025 seventh-round pick. The hope was that he would help shore up the secondary’s pass defense this year, while auditioning for a continued role in 2023. But now it appears he may not have much chance to contribute this season, even as the Steelers are paying him the prorated portion of his $5 million salary.

Under the terms of his current contract, Jackson is scheduled to earn a $9.25 million salary in 2023.

Hall of Honor Halftime Ceremony

On Sunday the Steelers will highlight their Hall of Honor Class of 2022 at halftime. The Class of 2022 features Myron Cope, Sam Davis, Ray Mathews and Heath Miller. The Steelers will also honor former wide receiver Louis Lipps, who was enshrined as part of the Class of 2021.

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