While the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be on track to get several injured players back to full health prior to their second preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, a few others don’t seem to be making the necessary progress for that to happen.
While Sunday reports indicate that Alejandro Villanueva, Justin Hunter, Artie Burns, James Conner, Cameron Sutton, Sean Davis, and Bud Dupree were all back in pads for the team’s practice, a few other players such as Landry Jones, Maurkice Pouncey, Ryan Shazier, Senquez Golson, Mike Mitchell, Demarcus Ayers, Keion Adams, Anthony Chickillo and Sammie Coates all remained sidelined. After Sunday’s practice ended, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he was pleased to get several of his injured players back practicing again in some capacity.
“It’s just a part of the process,” Tomlin said. “Hopefully, we get more back as we continue. Their availability is a big part of their individual growth and our collective growth.”
As just mentioned, Golson, the team’s third-year cornerback and former second-round draft pick, remains sidelined with a hamstring injury and reports last week indicated that he’s not likely to be close to resuming practice. Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler mentioned Golson on Sunday and how he’s running out of time to show he’s worth keeping a third year.
“Senquez was doing pretty good until he got hurt,” Butler said, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If he continues to do this… There is a pattern there. If you get hurt and can’t remain on the field you can’t play in the NFL. That’s the plain fact of the matter.”
Butler wasn’t done, however.
“The economics tells us if they’re not on the field playing you can’t pay them and keep them, Butler said after referencing what happened with former Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley several years ago. “The same goes for Senquez. If he can’t stay on the field we can’t keep him. That’s just the fact of the matter. That’s not threat or anything like that. That’s just the fact of the matter. It’s just the way it is for all of them.”
Those strong words from Butler aren’t very surprising and especially when you consider that Golson has failed to make it through a complete padded training camp practice since he was drafted in 2015. With he and Sutton both missing a ton of training camp practice so far this year, it’s given first-year cornerback Mike Hilton a great opportunity to make the 53-man roster.
“We have to get those guys back and see what we can do in camp in terms of the coverages we plan on playing,” Butler said per Fittipaldo. “I don’t know what we can do. I don’t know about Cam Sutton. I don’t know about him. I don’t know about Senquez Golson. I have an idea of Mike [Hilton]. He’s playing well for us.”
Hilton not only has been a camp phenom so far this year, he also had a great showing in the team’s Friday night preseason opener against the New York Giants. A Mississippi product like Golson, Hilton was all over the field and the stat sheet in that contest as he recorded four total tackles, a sack and recovered a fumble. A few of those tackles came on special teams with another coming on a fourth and short run.
After Sunday’s training camp practice, Tomlin was asked specially about Hilton once again and if he’s now a guy he tries to get more reps against higher quality players moving forward.
“It always has a way of sorting itself out,” Tomlin started. “The natural attrition associated with this process sorts those things out. They’re have been a lot of examples of guys getting opportunities to get reps in more experienced groups, if you will.”