While he only came off the field for one snap on Sunday, that being in a goal-line package in which cornerbacks aren’t on the grass anyway, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that veteran cornerback Steven Nelson was dealing with a groin injury suffered in that last game and that he should be regarded as questionable to play against the Los Angeles Chargers.
He would not divulge much of anything about the nature or severity of his injury following practice on Wednesday—as has become par for the course for the Steelers in the latter years of Tomlin’s tenure—but one thing that Nelson did make clear is that he has every intention of being out there on Sunday.
“That’s always been the plan”, the fifth-year cornerback told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after participating in practice. He did say that he doesn’t want to talk about the injury so as not to give anybody any “ammo” on him, but he did say, “I’m healthy, though”.
Since signing a three-year, $25.5 million contract with the Steelers on March, Nelson has quickly become an indispensable part of a rising defense, whose strength is beginning to be at the back end, in a group now stocked with talent like himself and Joe Haden at cornerback, and now a pair of second-year former first-round picks at safety in Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
He doesn’t have the interception yet—his four last season with the Kansas City Chiefs was more than any Steelers defender has had in a single season since Troy Polamalu in 2010—Nelson has been a force in coverage, and just in general on defense, arguably one of their most consistent players on the field so far this year.
A lot of people were not sold on him after he was signed, noting that he did get beat his fair share of times last season with the Chiefs, in his first year starting full-time on the outside, but we haven’t yet seen that from him this year.
It’s worth noting that the Steelers’ next opponent is one that he would be very familiar with, as the Chiefs and Chargers are in the same division, so Nelson will have seen Philip Rivers and company at least twice a year over the course of the first four years of his career.
Right now, the way things are tracking, it appears likely that the team is going to be able to have him out there. If not, Tomlin will have to decide whether to go with Artie Burns or one of his dime defenders, Cameron Sutton, to start on the outside opposite Haden in his place.