While the Pittsburgh Steelers have not confirmed that defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt has tested positive for Covid-19, they have all but confirmed that he will not be available to play tomorrow night when they host the Baltimore Ravens, after the seventh-year veteran was placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List on Saturday.
In theory, if Tuitt were placed on the list on that date as a high-risk close contact, but his contact came prior to Thanksgiving, the last time that the team practiced, he would have been eligible to be activated today. Because they are talking as though he is definitely out, however, it leads me to believe that he tested positive; alternatively, he had a non-team close contact later, possibly on Thanksgiving.
Be that as it may, his absence leaves them with a need to piece together a response to do without him. They have, of course, played a number of games with him sidelined due to injury over the past several years—including most of last season—but they usually had Javon Hargrave there to step up.
This year, they still have Cameron Heyward and Tyson Alualu, along with Chris Wormley, who should see his most extensive playing time since joining the team, but both Heyward and head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that there is no one player who could replace him.
“We’re going to utilize all the players at our disposal”, Tomlin said. “We will distribute those reps among the group. The strength of the pack will be the pack in that regard. You talk about a guy like Tuitt and the impact he makes, it’s not a one-man job. It’s an all-man job”.
That all-man job will not include Isaiah Buggs, who was also placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List along with Tuitt, but will include first-year Henry Mondeaux and rookie Carlos Davis. It is worth noting that Buggs has been a healthy scratch in multiple games this year, so that is not a major factor.
Both Mondeaux and Davis are capable of playing defensive end and tackle in the Steelers’ 3-4 front, as is Alualu, so that gives the Steelers a lot of flexibility in terms of the fronts that they will be able to run. They will also be playing a Ravens offensive line that could be without up to four starters.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been out for weeks due to injury. Right guard Tyre Phillips has, as well, but he is listed as questionable to play. Both centers, Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari, will miss the game after testing positive for Covid-19. Right tackle D.J. Fluker is also on the list, but may be a close contact, and may be able to play.
If not, then only left guard Bradley Bozeman will be the same since the last time the Steelers played the Ravens, though Orlando Brown is, of course, still in the lineup, only he has moved from right tackle to left tackle to take over Stanley’s spot.