It's not often that you see a team get quite as decimated as the Pittsburgh Steelers have been on the defensive side of the football this year. After losing former All-Pro Cameron Heyward to a groin tear for the first half of the season, starting linebackers Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander were lost for the year with serious leg injuries.
Now it's the secondary that has been completely decimated. Earlier in the year, veteran Keanu Neal suffered a season-ending injury. Meanwhile, three-time All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick missed a stretch of four games with a hamstring injury. Now things have gone from bad to worse.
Less than halfway through Pittsburgh's embarrassing loss to the Colts, Patrick Peterson collided with Fitzpatrick as Minkah was defending a pass. This collision resulted in a potentially serious knee injury to the Steelers safety. Gerry Dulac of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls the injury 'not good' and the star safety has already been ruled out against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16.
But Fitzpatrick and Neal aren't the only safeties missing from the Steelers roster at the moment. Damontae Kazee was ejected from Saturday's contest against the Colts after delivering a hit on defenseless wide receiver, Michael Pittman Jr.
The punishment for Kazee didn't end with being tossed from the game or handed a lofty fine. In addition to these things, the NFL has elected to suspend the Steelers safety for the remainder of the season. Prior to being tossed from the game, Kazee had already been fined five times for illegal hits this season, and the league is sending a message with his dangerous hit on Pittman in Week 15.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are now without their three top safeties (Minkah Fitzpatrick, Damontae Kazee, and Keanu Neal). They are also without backup safety/defensive back Elijah Riley (who was placed on IR a month ago with an ankle injury).
The Steelers have no way to overcome their losses at safety
The injuries and suspensions in their secondary leave just Trenton Thompson and special teamer Miles Killebrew as the only two safeties currently on the roster with a chance to go (and even Thompson left the Colts game with a stinger.
The Steelers have two safeties on the practice squad that can be (and probably will be) called up to the active roster. Eric Rowe is one of them. The veteran journeyman has started 56 games in his career dating back to 2015, but he's now 31 years old and hasn't played in a game since Week 17 of last season when he was with the Dolphins.
Henry Black is the other practice squad safety the Steelers could call up to the active roster. Unfortunately, Black has never started an NFL game and has primarily been a special teams player in his first two seasons.
Any way you slice it, these options are far less than ideal, and at this point in the season, the Steelers might not be able to find an option in free agency who can come in and help them in the final three games. Because of this, some have speculated that Patrick Peterson could be moved to safety to close out the year, but we don't know at this time whether or not this will be the case.
As rough as it is in their secondary right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are simply going to have to weather the storm without four of their top safeties on their roster. This could get ugly.