The Buffalo Bills will host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Highmark Stadium in Week 5 action on Sunday. While the Bills’ defense is starting to get healthy, the exact opposite is true for their upcoming opponents. Already missing linebacker T.J. Watt, the Steelers are also monitoring dings to free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, safety Terrell Edmunds, and cornerback Cameron Sutton.
Pittsburgh lost a gritty game with the New York Jets on Sunday, but even worse than the numbers on the scoreboard were the numbers on their injury list. Four key defensive players were injured in the loss, and while injuries are never good, the timing couldn’t be worse as they get set to take on a top offense led by quarterback Josh Allen, who comes into the game with 1,227 yards, ten touchdowns, and a 101 passer rating.
The Steelers lost Watt to a torn pectoral muscle in their Week 1 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, and have been playing linebackers Malik Reed and Jamir Jones in his place.
Now they are looking at the loss of a cornerback, both safeties, and a defensive tackle as they prepare for their game in Buffalo on Sunday.
Edmunds is in concussion protocol after taking a nasty hit while attempting to break up a pass of quarterback Zach Wilson. Edmunds collided with Jets running back Michael Carter and cornerback Arthur Maulet on the play.
Initially, Edmunds rolled out of bounds but stayed on the ground while trainers rushed to his side. After being helped to his feet, he walked to the medical tent where he was evaluated before being taken to the locker room and later ruled out with a concussion.
As we saw with Buffalo’s own Ryan Bates, it is possible to clear concussion protocol with one full week between games, but Edmunds’s designation throughout the week’s practices will be something for Buffalo to monitor.
In addition to Edmunds, Fitzpatrick also finished Sunday’s game with an injury. Fitzpatrick had just cleared concussion protocol on September 30, after having reported concussion symptoms following the Steelers’ 29-17 loss at Cleveland in Week 3, despite having played every defensive snap and never leaving the game. Now Fitzpatrick is listed with a knee injury sustained during the game against the Jets, and while he did exit the game to be evaluated, he was able to return to play.
Should Edmunds and/or Fitzpatrick not be healthy on Sunday when the Steelers arrive at Highmark Stadium, they have safeties Tre Norwood and Miles Killebrew on the roster. Norwood is in his second year, having made his NFL debut in Pittsburgh’s game against Buffalo last season, and has recorded 38 tackles and one interception in 21 games. Killebrew is in his seventh season, having been drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2016, and has recorded 104 tackles and two interceptions in that time.
At some point during Sunday’s game, cornerback Sutton suffered a hamstring injury, although it wasn’t reported until Pittsburgh’s head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media after the game.
Sutton had spent some time during the week on the injury list with a groin injury but was cleared to play on Sunday. Losing another cornerback will be a problem for Pittsburgh, who already lost Ahkello Witherspoon to a hamstring injury during their Week 3 game against the Browns.
With either, or both, Sutton or Witherspoon out, that means that former Bills starting corner Levi Wallace will be next man up for the Steelers. Wallace has seen plenty of action this season having played in some part of each of Pittsburgh’s four games and recording nine tackles as a Steeler. Wallace started 17 games for Buffalo in 2021 (52 games in his four years with the Bills) and had 58 tackles and two interceptions. He was signed by Pittsburgh as a free agent during the offseason.
The fourth Pittsburgh defender to be banged up during Week 4 was Heyward. Tomlin reported that his injuries, an elbow sustained in the first half and an ankle sustained near the end of the game, were nothing more than bumps and bruises. Even with Tomlin’s downplaying of Heyward’s injuries, it will be worth watching how much participation he has during practice as Pittsburgh prepares for the Bills.
Buffalo center Mitch Morse had an elbow injury and returned to play in Buffalo’s matchup against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 but then ended up missing the Week 3 game in Miami. Likewise, Buffalo has had a number of players—defensive tackle Ed Oliver, wide receiver Gabe Davis, wide receiver Jake Kumerow—with ankle injuries that have resulted in loss of gametime over the last several weeks.
So, while Tomlin may be saying that Heyward’s injuries are minor now, a full week of practice will tell more about whether he will be able to suit up on Sunday and, if so, how healthy he will be.
Pittsburgh will be coming to Buffalo with a 1-3 record, and a banged-up defense isn’t going to make stopping a Bills’ offense that has put up 114 points already this season an easy task.