Steelers won’t have proven fullback vs. Seahawks |

Steelers won’t have proven fullback vs. Seahawks

Joe Rutter
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix “may miss this game and another or two” with a knee injury, coach Mike Tomlin said.

Having a Pro Bowl fullback on the field could have helped the Pittsburgh Steelers overcome their short-yardage failures Sunday night in a 33-3 loss to the New England Patriots.

It won’t be a potential cure-all this weekend — and potentially beyond — if the Steelers find themselves in a similar situation against the Seattle Seahawks.

Fullback Roosevelt Nix, who didn’t play an offensive snap against the Patriots, likely won’t be available for the next few weeks because of a knee injury.

Coach Mike Tomlin added Nix to his injury report Tuesday at his weekly news conference. Tomlin said Nix “may miss this game and another or two.”

Tomlin said Nix was injured during the 30-point loss to the Patriots, presumably while playing on special teams given his absence on offense. Selected one of four team captains because of his role on special teams, Nix played 18 snaps on those units against New England, third-most among Steelers players.

Without Nix on the field to block for James Conner, the Steelers failed to convert a pair of third-and-1 running plays in the second quarter. Faced with another third-and-1 and a fourth-and-1 later in the game, the Steelers elected to pass and didn’t convert either opportunity.

“We failed miserably in that regards,” Tomlin said. “It was catastrophic to our efforts. It didn’t allow us to sustain drives. It didn’t allow us to possess the ball. It didn’t allow us to play a certain number of snaps. It didn’t allow us obviously to score points. Couple that with some drops, it made for some tough sledding.”

On the first short-yardage attempt, Conner was stopped for no gain on a run up the middle. On the second, he lost 4 yards on a pitch around left end. The Patriots used a 25-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing possession to take a 17-0 lead.

“No excuses in that regard,” Tomlin said when asked about the Steelers’ inability to run successfully without a fullback on the field.

Faced with a fourth-and-1 at the Patriots 47 at the two-minute warning, the Steelers sent out a jumbo package that involved tackle Zach Banner as a blocking tight end. But during the commercial break, the call was changed. Banner trotted off the field, and the Steelers went with five wide receivers. Donte Moncrief couldn’t hold onto Roethlisberger’s pass, and the Patriots got a late field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to build a 20-point cushion at halftime.

The Steelers settled for a field goal on their first drive of the second half when Roethlisberger and Moncrief couldn’t connect on a fade on third-and-1 from the 1.

“You can’t afford to lose 4-5 possessions when playing a group like that,” Tomlin said, “particularly in circumstances when you need to win the vast majority of the short-yardage situations.”

The running game struggled no matter the situation. Conner rushed for 21 yards on 10 attempts, and backup Jaylen Samuels gained 4 yards on two carries. A 5-yard run represented the long gain by a running back.

The Steelers used Nix at fullback on 16% of their offensive plays in 2017 when Le’Veon Bell was the tailback. Last year, Nix’s playing time was less than 10% with Conner as the primary runner.

If the Steelers wish to use a fullback to provide extra blocking for Conner or Samuels in their home opener against Seattle, they will turn to someone with no NFL experience at the position. Sutton Smith, an outside linebacker who took some reps at fullback in spring workouts, was cut at the end of the preseason and not re-signed to the practice squad.

“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.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Steelers
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.