The Steelers held a practice round on Tuesday as they prepared for Thursday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans at Actress Stadium.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett was listed as limited in practice, which is an estimate, because of the rib injury he suffered against the Jaguars, but he said afterward that he should be ready to go Thursday night.
“I’m definitely playing,” Pickett said.
With safety Minkah Fitzpatrick already ruled out with a hamstring injury suffered against the Jaguars, it will be up to others in the secondary to step up in his absence, including the option contact side where Fitzpatrick is a center. Fellow safety Keanu Neal said it was tough to lose Fitzpatrick in the game last week, but having time to prepare this week will help.
“I think it was tough at times, because it was a big part of that communication aspect,” Neal said of losing Fitzpatrick within the game. “Losing a player like Minka is always tough. He’s a dynamic player, and he’s a big part of this defense. Losing him was definitely tough, but it’s the next man up mentality.
“We came in, and we had some wrinkles here and there that we had to iron out, but we managed to push through.”
There’s not a lot of time in a short week to make adjustments related to Fitzpatrick’s unavailability, but you can be sure adjustments will be made.
“It’s good (to have some time),” Neal said. “We have enough time to watch film together. Get an idea of what we’re going to do, game plan-wise. That’s always good. Preparing for the game this week is huge, not having Minka in the game. We’ll get going.”
“The game plan is the game plan. Whatever they put out there, it’s up to us to go out and execute and put things in place.”
While coach Mike Tomlin mentioned players like Neal, Damontae Kazee and Myles Killebrew, another player who could see an increased role is safety Elijah Riley. His playing time has been primarily on special teams, but that could change this week.
“The biggest thing is we want to be ready every week, next man up mentality,” Riley said. “Everyone in the room cares about each other. We want to see each other succeed. Nothing changes. We continue with our business as usual. We have work to do Thursday night.”
“Everyone in the room is preparing as if they are going to play, so we want to be as diligent as possible.
“Minka is a professional guy. He’s a huge contributor to this defense, beyond just his ability to make plays. We all have to be able to step up. We’re all professionals. We want to win games as a group. We don’t expect anyone to be Superman.” . We want everyone to be able to do the job and when the opportunity comes make the most of it.”
Riley said that while his individual style may not change this week, he may see more defensive snaps instead of working primarily on special teams in practice.
“We’re approaching it with a lot more preparedness,” Riley said. “Being a team player, usually throughout the week we don’t have the fluidity of defensive movement in practice. This week we have to prepare like that.
“My individual preparations haven’t changed. I prepare every week the way I’m supposed to be on the field. I’ll continue to do that, maybe a little harder.”
With Fitzpatrick’s injury, the team also signed safety Jalen Elliott to the practice squad on Tuesday and released linebacker David Perales. Elliott was previously with the Steelers during training camp this summer.
Elliott originally signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame.
He spent his rookie season on the Lions’ practice squad and was elevated to the active roster for two games, later signing to the 53-man roster. He played a total of eight games, one start.
Elliott signed with the New England Patriots during training camp in 2022. He played in the preseason but was released before the start of the regular season. Elliott also spent time with the Las Vegas Raiders.
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