2016 South Side Questions: How Much Much Playing Time Will Nix See When He Returns?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: If Roosevelt Nix returns this week, how much will the Steelers employ a fullback in the game?

Although his absence has no doubt been a bigger blow to their special teams units than on offense, the Steelers have no doubt been hoping to see the return of fullback Roosevelt Nix to the lineup, as he proved to be a successful lead back for them last year.

The second-year player missed the first five games, and most of training camp and the preseason, with a back injury, but he may finally be on his way back after being listed as a full participant in practice on Wednesday.

Nix did not practice at all for the first two weeks, and then returned on a limited basis for the following two weeks. He practiced fully every day last week, but was still ruled out for the game on Friday. If he gets another full week of practice under his belt, he would seem to be likely to return.

And it does seem as though the Steelers would like to use him. The offense expanded its usage of the fullback position on Sunday, using David Johnson in that capacity on six snaps, the most he has played it in a game yet this year. And he played only nine meaningful snaps in the game, so he was used primarily as a fullback, hinting at the idea that they are seeking to make use of the position.

I have written in the past that the Steelers have been more effective running the ball last year when Nix was used as a lead blocker in comparison to when he was not, and you can probably expect a refresher piece in that regard with some insights from this season included as we get further on in the week and it appears that he will return.

But, of course, it will remain to be seen just how much he will be used. He figures to be active due to his special teams responsibilities alone, but the team has also taken an affinity to having two halfbacks on the field together, which could complicate his own playing time.

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