Steelers on track to have returning defensive players vs Titans in Week 15

Carlos Davis #73 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Carlos Davis #73 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers run defense has been abysmal, but they could be in line to get a boost in Week 15 against the Tennesse Titans. 

It’s been remarkably hard to watch Pittsburgh’s defense at times this year — particularly when it comes to the run defense. In their most recent contestant on the road against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14, the Steelers were steamrolled Dalvin Cook and company for a whopping 242 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground while surrendering an embarrassing 6.7 yards per attempt.

On the season, the Steelers are 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (139.5) and dead last by a wide margin in rushing yards allowed per attempt (5.0), according to Team Rankings. Over the past six games, this unit has been even worse as they have allowed three rushing performances of over 197 yards while giving up 10 rushing touchdowns during this span.

The Steelers have a must-win matchup against the Tennessee Titans this week, and they are incredibly fortunate that they won’t have to face running back Derrick Henry this time around. Though they held the Titans to just 82 rushing yards when they last met early in the in 2020 season, this is a defensive unit that is missing Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu and has been unrecognizable this year.

Steelers run defense could improve this week

There is some good news in all of this. After being decimated with injuries along the defensive line all season, the Steelers are on track to have several key rotational defenders return to the lineup this week. Defensive tackles Carlos Davis and Isaiah Buggs were both full participants at practice to begin the week. Though Buggs was held out of Thursday’s practice, Davis participated in full once again, and it looks like they are on track to have at least one more DT suit up against Tennessee in Week 15.

If you recall, Davis suffered a knee injury all the way back in Week 1 in the win over the Buffalo Bills. After missing the last 12 games, it looks like the athletic defensive lineman is finally ready to return to the field. Buggs, meanwhile, has missed three games this season due to injuries but has also been forced to leave contests early.

While getting this duo back on the field isn’t exactly like awaiting the return of Tuitt and Alualu, they are most welcomed additions after the nightmare we have seen along the defensive line with players like Henry Mondeaux and Montravius Adams trying to slow down the run.

In addition to the injuries on the interior defensive line, Pittsburgh edge defenders T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith have both struggled to stay healthy this year. Just this past week, Watt once again tweaked his groin while Highsmith suffered a quad injury. They were both limited participants in practice and we will have to check on their availability before the game.

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I know getting back a pair of rotational defensive tackles doesn’t seem like a big win for the Steelers, but we will take them as they come. Pittsburgh could use all the help they can get right now as their season could be riding on this game against the Titans in Week 15.