Seemingly healthy up front defensively heading into Thursday night’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, the Pittsburgh Steelers were eyeing the opportunity to get after Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in the primetime matchup.
Things did not go the way the Steelers had hoped, though, as star outside linebacker T.J. Watt and second-year pro Alex Highsmith both exited the game with injuries, leaving the Steelers rather shorthanded in the pass rush department against a veteran quarterback who can pick apart defenses when he has a clean pocket to work through.
With Watt and Highsmith sidelined, the likes of Derrek Tuszka and Taco Charlton were called on to give the Steelers a ton of snaps defensively. Though the two outside linebackers certainly gave it their all, they weren’t good enough in the end, as the Steelers couldn’t generate much of a pass rush against Cousins and the Vikings in a 36-28 loss.
Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin was certainly appreciative of the efforts from Tuszka and Charlton, but effort only goes so far in the NFL.
“I’m just appreciative of their efforts. Those are guys that are new to us and hadn’t played a lot and they quickly became every down players,” Tomlin said to reporters following the loss, according to video via the Steelers’ official YouTube page. “…I appreciate their efforts, but efforts don’t get the job done. We didn’t put enough pressure on the quarterback, but that’s life.”
The Steelers failed to sack Cousins on Thursday night, and recorded just six quarterback hits in the loss. Tuszka did get away with a hit on Cousins on the second interception the veteran quarterback threw, having hit Cousins in the facemask, but overall, the two pass rushers didn’t generate much, combining for just six tackles and one quarterback hit overall.
Depth has always been a concern since the Steelers traded Melvin Ingram. That lack of depth reared its ugly head once again, this time in front of a national audience as Cousins had all day to throw, picking apart a banged-up Steelers’ secondary throughout the game.