PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is hopeful linebacker T.J. Watt and cornerback Joe Haden will be available when Tennessee visits Heinz Field on Sunday.
Watt left last Thursday’s 36-28 loss to Minnesota in the first half with a groin injury. Haden hasn’t played since spraining his foot in a tie against Detroit last month.
“A number of those guys who have been out in recent weeks have an opportunity maybe to get back on the train,” Tomlin said.
The list includes linebacker Alex Highsmith, who also left the Vikings’ loss with an injury, as well as defensive linemen Carlos Davis and Isaiah Buggs. Davis has spent most of the season on injured reserve and Buggs has been dealing with an ankle injury, symbolic of a defensive front that’s been dealing with depth concerns since Tyson Alualu was lost for the season with a fractured ankle in Week 2.
Pittsburgh’s run defense has sagged as the season has worn on. The Steelers are 30th in the league against the run after giving up 242 yards to the Vikings, who manhandled Pittsburgh’s defensive front with ease.
The Steelers (6-6-1) still find themselves in the mix in the AFC North despite having just one win in their past five games. Tomlin, however, did not spend the weekend poring over the standings.
“I do not care,” he said “My agenda is the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn’t waste any of my time this weekend pondering that perspective. I was just looking at our place in this fray and the things that we’re capable of getting accomplished.”
Tomlin is confident Pittsburgh can accomplish those things with wide receiver Chase Claypool. Claypool drew widespread criticism for making a first-down signal with the clock running in the final minute against Minnesota, a display that cost the Steelers valuable seconds.
Tomlin called the maneuver “a misstep” but declined to publicly take the talented second-year receiver to task. Tomlin pointed out the 23-year-old Claypool is still in the early stages of his career and remains an unfinished product.
“It can’t happen fast enough for him, and it can’t happen fast enough for us,” Tomlin said. “We’re going to continue to push that growth and development as long as he’s a willing participant. He has been, and so we’re just gonna keep moving forward.”
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