Steel Mill A.M.: Versatile Roosevelt Nix adds wide receiver to his résumé
DETROIT – He was a standout college defensive end, turned NFL fullback who'd frequently taken practice reps at tight end.
But… Roosevelt Nix… the wide receiver?
It happened Sunday. Or, at least, Nix lined up wide out in the formation along the line of scrimmage on several occasions during Sunday's 20-15 victory against the Detroit Lions.
“Yeah, just doing something different,” Nix said after the game in what was a jubilant visitor's locker room at Ford Field.
“I mean, we are just trying to do some different things to keep this powerful offense going. I'm not quite sure (why), but I just do what I'm told to do.”
Nix was not the intended receiver for any of Ben Roethlisberger's 31 throws, and he also did not get a carry (that's zero for his career). But Nix wasn't just a, um, decoy when he was lined out wide – he was running legitimate routes at times. Nix was well downfield and near the play during Roethlisberger's first-quarter interception.
Nix, as he is known for, had a strong game in protection (Roethlisberger was not sacked) – and he did it both out of the fullback and tight end spots (though he was flagged once for holding). Nix was credited with a tackle on the interception and on a kickoff return.
Though his role is, to the casual fan, an under-the-radar one, Nix was receiving quite a bit of attention last week after he (and his defined position, fullback) were ramped up in usage during recent games. Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell, other teammates, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and even head coach Mike Tomlin spoke about the myriad of ways Nix contributes – and also, in some cases, the possibility of Nix getting an elusive carry. Or even a how to get him a touchdown.
Nix? He's just happy to be on a team that's 6-2 and on a three-game winning streak heading into its bye.
“Aw man, I love my team, and the energy of this team,” Nix said. “We are playing good football right now, and it's just a blessing.”
Steelers 20, Lions 15
Three stats to know
1. The Steelers were 6-2 after eight games under Mike Tomlin during each of his first five seasons. But they hadn't been since, until now.
2. Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster each have been targeted on exactly 36 Ben Roethlisberger throws this season. Smith-Schuster has 24 catches for 424 yards and four touchdowns; Bryant has 18 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown.
3. The Steelers have not allowed a touchdown on the opponent's opening drive for 25 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
The Steelers practice Tuesday and Wednesday, then a four-day break for the bye week.
Three storylines for the week
1. Is the bye coming at a good time because it's exactly midseason and it will help the Steelers recharge for the stretch run? Or is it coming at a bad time because it could stunt the momentum of a three-game winning streak?
2. Watch for Cameron Sutton to return to the practice field this week. The rookie third-round pick is on injured reserve but eligible to play in games if the Steelers designate him to return. Once Sutton begins practicing, he will have to be activated to the 53-man roster within three weeks.
3. Is Bryant automatically back with the first team and in good graces after his benching this past week because of his negative social-media posts? Or is he stuck in de facto-suspension purgatory? (Bonus: even if he is welcomed back by Tomlin, how far has he slid down the depth chart?).
Steelers (6-2) at Indianapolis Colts (2-6), 1 p.m. Nov. 12, Lucas Oil Stadium
The Colts might be the worst team in the NFL not named the Browns. In fact, a case could be made they are actually worse than the Browns (a Sept. 24 home win against Cleveland notwithstanding) – their minus-104 point differential is the worst in the NFL. And by a wide margin.