The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have a fullback on the field when they failed to execute four short-yardage situations Sunday night in a 33-3 loss to the New England Patriots, and they won’t have their starter at that position on the field this weekend – and perhaps for a few weeks beyond.
Coach Mike Tomlin revealed Tuesday that Roosevelt Nix, a core special teams player and former Pro Bowl pick at fullback, “may miss this game” Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks and “another or two.”
Nix injured his knee during the 30-point loss to the Patriots. He played 18 snaps on special teams, third-most on the team, but he did not log a snap on offense.
Without Nix on the field as a blocker, the Steelers failed twice on third-and-1 running plays in the second quarter. Running back James Conner was stopped for no gain up the middle on the first attempt and lost four yards on the second, a pitch around left end.
The Steelers had a fourth-and-1 later in the second quarter and a third-and-1 in the third. Both times, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw incomplete to receiver Donte Moncrief.
Conner rushed for 21 yards on 10 attempts, and backup Jaylen Samuels gained four yards on two carries. Trailing 20-0 at halftime, the Steelers had to abandon the run in the second half, attempting just three running plays.
If the Steelers wish to use a fullback for extra blocking in their home opener against Seattle, they will turn to someone with no NFL experience at the position.
“We have some candidates,” Tomlin said. “We spent some time as we always do looking at other options in areas where we don’t have a lot of depth. Fullback position is an area where we don’t have a lot of depth.
“We’re not opposed looking at other people. We’ve spent time looking at defenders in the spring and summer. We also are capable of looking at tight ends, which we’ve done in the past quite regularly.”
Tomlin brushed off questions about specific players filling the fullback role.
“We’re just at the beginning stages of discussing it,” he said. “If we need a fullback, there will be somebody representing that position on Sunday, I assure you of that.”
Other players nursing injuries after the loss at Gillette Stadium included center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (foot), linebacker T.J. Watt (hip) and cornerback Joe Haden (shoulder). Free safety Sean Davis missed the game with an ankle injury.
“We are all optimistic about their availability,” Tomlin said. “The week will tell their story as we work.”
Here are other things Tomlin said during his weekly press conference: