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Steelers notebook: Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt might be ready to play Sunday against Bears

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, 8:42 p.m.
Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt celebrates dropping Vikings running back Dalvin Cook in the third quarter Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt celebrates dropping Vikings running back Dalvin Cook in the third quarter Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.

The news was good Wednesday in regards to the injury statuses of a player in each of the three levels of the Steelers defense.

Defensive end Stephon Tuitt said he “made tremendous steps” during Wednesday's practice. Linebacker T.J. Watt said he “felt pretty good” taking part in it. For safety J.J. Wilcox, returning to regular practice reps “was a great feeling.”

Each of the three has missed game time because of injury. Tuitt left the opener early because of a biceps strain. Wilcox left later in that game because of a concussion, and Watt did not play in the second half of Sunday's game against the Vikings because of a groin injury.

Wilcox was cleared for full practice participation; Watt and Tuitt were limited Wednesday.

“It was great today — moved a lot, pushed,” Tuitt said. “It was an awesome day, just taking the step forward and getting that confidence in my arm.

“(Thursday) we're going to be pushing on some guys and me doing my regular routine, and after (Thursday's practice) we will be able to have the (discussion about) the game this Sunday.”

Similarly in regards to his status for Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears, Watt said he's “just going to take it day by day and see how I feel come Sunday.”

Watt said the injury he suffered Sunday was an aggravation of one that occurred early last week in practice.

Wilcox said he “definitely” will play Sunday. For the hard-hitting safety who was concussed by a hard hit he delivered in Cleveland 10 days prior, Wilcox pledged not to allow the threat of further head trauma to affect the way he plays.

“That's what I get paid to do,” he said of hitting opposing receivers and ball carriers hard. “I've just got to be careful.”

Difficult 3 weeks

Wilcox said of his September: “It can't get any worse.”

Aside from the concussion and missed playing time, he he suddenly was traded mere months after changing NFL teams for the first time and signing a multiyear contract, plus his family was left behind in the Tampa area. It was a temporary situation that was supposed to be a mere inconvenience, but then Hurricane Irma struck Florida, potentially putting his family in danger.

Wilcox's family, though, was fortunate enough to be able to get away to safety.

All in all, Wilcox is welcoming what is finally some normalcy with a new team in a new city. He's cleared to play, and his family has joined him.

“It's good to be able to relax,” he said. “Be able to do what I do, you know? And keep winning.”

Dupree limited; Gilbert sits

The news wasn't all positive on the official injury report. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree was limited because of his lingering shoulder injury, and starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert did not practice because of a hamstring injury.

Dupree played during Sunday's win against Minnesota after missing the Week 1 game; Gilbert left that game in the second half because of cramps.

Absent from practice because of illness were center Maurkice Pouncey and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Tight end Jesse James did not practice because of an ankle injury.

Ben Roethlisberger was given a veteran's day off by coach Mike Tomlin.

“The mid-30s day off,” the 35-year-old quarterback said.

Was that Hines?

There was a No. 86 on the Steelers' practice field Wednesday — but not that one.

Practice-squad tight end Jake McGee was wearing the number in lieu of his normal No. 80. McGee, though, was not switching to the number of all-time Steelers receiving leader Hines Ward. He was merely serving scout-team duties in advance of Sunday's game, playing the role of Bears tight end Zach Miller.

Typically, the scout team players put on pinneys with numbers corresponding to players on the opposing team.

“Yeah, I assure you, I know I'm not Hines,” McGee said.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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