Steelers Share Surprise Week 4 Injury News on Star Defender

Getty Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reacts during a game.


Update: Pittsburgh Steelers star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick practiced fully on Sept. 28, according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.

In Mike Tomlin’s Sept. 27 press conference, he shared news no one wants to hear: Star defender Minkah Fitzpatrick is in concussion protocol.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backfield took a hit in the loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Whether Fitzpatrick misses Pittsburgh’s upcoming Oct. 2 matchup versus the New York Jets depends on the severity of his concussion. What could be to Fitzpatrick’s advantage is that he entered concussion protocol early, and there are 10 days between the Cleveland and New York games.

Per Medicine Net, analyzed data from the 2012-2015 pro football seasons found that the players who suffered a concussion returned to play an average of 19 days later, or 1.5 games.

Pittsburgh was without starting cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon for most of Thursday Night Football’s second half.

A few minutes into the third quarter, Witherspoon was injured while battling Browns receiver Amari Cooper in the end zone. He fell to the ground and was slow to get up before limping slowly to the sideline. Witherspoon was taken to the locker room and ruled out for the remainder of the game with a hamstring injury.

Witherspoon has been the starting left cornerback for the Steelers this season. If he cannot go on Sunday, Levi Wallace will start opposite Cam Sutton.

The Oct. 2 Jets game is as close to a must-win for the Steelers as it gets. They’re playing at home and need to take advantage of home-field advantage. Pittsburgh faces a brutal stretch of games starting Week 5 with Buffalo Bills and Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They round out the first half of the season with the NFL’s remaining unbeatens in the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles.

Let’s hope Minkah Fitzpatrick clears concussion protocol to suit up versus New York. The defense needs to bounce back from a rough two straight losses. Not to mention, Pittsburgh’s offense needs all the help they can get.

Steelers Depth Chart Change

Elsewhere on the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, Mike Tomlin made a rare in-season adjustment to the team’s depth chart. Tomlin shared during his press conference that Montravius Adams has been promoted to the first team in place of veteran Tyson Alualu.

When asked what went into the change and what Tomlin has seen from Adams, the Steelers head coach put it simply, “He’s been playing better than Tyson [Alualu], so we just thought that was appropriate.”

Adams, a 2017 third-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers, signed with the Steelers last season from the New Orleans Saints practice squad. Adams appeared in five games, starting four.

When asked how Adams’ play differs from Alualu’s and how he fits into the defense, Tomlin said, “He’s capable of doing the things that we ask him to do. He’s played a lot of football for us. He played a lot and started a lot for us last year.”

Adams was among players used at nose tackle when Alualu missed the final 15 games of the 2021 season with a fractured ankle.

Adams has been fighting injuries of his own, which Tomlin said delayed his progress in learning the defense. An ankle injury suffered early in camp sidelined Adams for all three preseason games.

“He missed a lot of time during team development that probably slowed his progress,” said Tomlin. “Since he’s been back from injury, we’ve just seen a real uptick in his consistency and performance.”

Hopefully, making the switch at nose tackle will help spark a struggling defense that currently ranks 29th against the run, having surrendered 428 yards to opposing runners. The Jets pose a threat with their young one-two punch combo of Michael Carter and Breece Hall, who could quickly make it a long game if Pittsburgh can’t get it together.

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