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Steelers

Steelers notebook: Pass defense lacks big plays

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, 6:33 p.m.
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier defends on a pass from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on fourth down during the Lions last play of the game Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 at Ford Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier defends on a pass from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on fourth down during the Lions last play of the game Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 at Ford Field.
The Lions' T.J. Jones catches a pass next to Steelers safety Sean Davis during the third quarter Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, at Ford Field in Detroit.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Lions' T.J. Jones catches a pass next to Steelers safety Sean Davis during the third quarter Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, at Ford Field in Detroit.

Only eight teams are averaging more pass breakups per game than the Steelers at the midway point of the season. Among teams in the top half of the league in that category, though, just one has fewer interceptions than the Steelers.

In other words, the Steelers have been making plays — just not the big plays.

“We break up a lot of passes, we knock a lot of balls down and we actually put our hand on a lot of balls,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “I probably have two or three breakups that could have been picks, but now this season I'm dropping them.

“We've got to do a better job of capitalizing on our opportunities.”

Shazier has two of the Steelers' seven interceptions; their defensive backs have combined for four. But Shazier had an opportunity for a third — and a 90-plus-yard return for a touchdown — late in the Steelers' most recent game, a win at Detroit on Oct. 29.

“Guys are in good positions to make plays,” safety Mike Mitchell said. “We've just got to make them.”

Further demonstrating the lack of big plays, the Steelers have combined for only 38 return yards on their interceptions, with none going for longer than 19 and five going for 2 or fewer yards.

A fully healthy team?

The Steelers are so confident Stephon Tuitt and Marcus Gilbert are healthy and will play Sunday at Indianapolis they aren't even listing them on the official injury report.

Starting right tackle Gilbert hasn't played a full game since the season opener because of a hamstring injury and missed the past two games entirely. Defensive end Tuitt missed the past two games because of a back injury. But both returned to practice during the bye week and have expressed they are ready to return to game action.

Assuming they do, that opens up the possibility the Steelers could have a completely healthy team for Week 9. Tight end Vance McDonald also is not listed on the injury report after missing the Steelers' most recent game because of a knee injury.

Mitchell (Achilles) was limited in practice Wednesday, and veteran linebacker James Harrison (back) did not participate. There were no other Steelers on the injury report.

Colts injury report

For the Colts, starting defensive lineman Henry Anderson (throat) and outside linebacker John Simon (neck) did not practice. Simon has missed the past two games.

Limited at practice were receiver Kamar Aiken (hamstring) and cornerback Quincy Wilson (knee).

Veteran cornerback Vontae Davis was limited in practice because of a groin injury. Davis did not play in the Colts' most recent game Sunday, and he told reporters Wednesday he was upset with coach Chuck Pagano for the way he handled the demotion.

Davis reportedly said he would not play Sunday against the Steelers. Pierre Desir has started in his place.

Another new addition

Maurkice Pouncey was in Miami to see his brother, Mike, play for the Dolphins on Monday Night Football when he got an unexpected wakeup call Sunday morning.

His baby was on its way.

His girlfriend, Razan Aziz, wasn't due until Nov. 14, but her water broke early Sunday.

She called Pouncey at 5 a.m., and he flew back to Pittsburgh in time for the arrival of daughter Marley Layla, who weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces, at 3:30 p.m. It's their second daughter together, joining 6-year-old Jayda.

Pouncey is one of a handful of Steelers who have had babies this year, joining Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, David DeCastro and Cam Heyward.

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

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