Banged-up Steelers’ Artie Burns, Stephon Tuitt get good news, expect to play
Artie Burns has never missed a game in his two seasons with the Steelers, and he doesn’t plan to start now.
Stephon Tuitt has been inactive four times this season, and he has no interest in getting one for the thumb.
One day after the Steelers lost two defensive starters to injury during practice, neither Burns nor Tuitt participated during Thursday’s workout at the indoor facility at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Nose tackle Javon Hargrave also sat out with a back injury, but defensive coordinator Keith Butler is confident his unit will be at full strength Sunday when the Steelers play the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz Field.
“I feel better about it now that I know what it is,” Butler said after practice.
Burns said he has a hyperextended right knee, which was wrapped in bandages Thursday. Tuitt indicated his right-elbow injury is minor.
Burns exited early Wednesday when his knee buckled during a noncontact drill on the indoor turf surface. Tuitt also departed early after hurting his elbow in a collision with a teammate.
Both players said they expect to practice Friday and will be in the lineup against the Jaguars.
“Hopefully,” Burns said, “if everything goes how I expect it to go.”
Said Tuitt: “My status is fine.”
Burns and Tuitt each had an MRI on Wednesday, and the results allayed any fears of a long-term absence for either player. And that was the news Butler wanted to hear with the team’s playoff opener three days away.
“When you first do it, it probably freaks you out more than it should,” he said. “It has happened to me, too, and you think it’s worse than it is, and hopefully that is the situation.”
Burns received treatment Thursday and said he did some “light drills” in the training area. Tuitt was in uniform but watched practice from the sideline.
“When everything happens, you take it to that most extreme manner — and then after you get all the results back, you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad,’ ” Tuitt said. “So once we found that out, it’s pretty good.”
Like Tuitt, Burns couldn’t help but fear a serious injury when he left the practice field.
“Yeah, I was scared for a little bit,” Burns said. “But after I went and got the MRI and everything came back, I was so happy. I’ll be good.”
Burns, 22, started all 16 games this season, his first as a full-time starter, and had one interception and 13 passes defensed.
Rookie third-round draft pick Cam Sutton would start if Burns is unable to play against Jacksonville. Sutton started one game this season in place of corner Joe Haden.
Sutton’s start came Dec. 17 against the New England Patriots when he replaced Coty Sensabaugh, who started the first four games during Haden’s absence. Haden said Sutton took all of the first-team reps in practice Thursday.
Butler said that against the Patriots, Sutton showed “that he wasn’t afraid to do what he was supposed to do. We played a lot of man coverage in that situation, and he was able to match up. He does have physical skills and stuff like that, but he’s a smart young man, too. He knows how to keep from getting beat.”
Tuitt had three sacks in 12 games, his fewest number since his rookie year. Veteran Tyson Alualu started five games this season, four when Tuitt was out with biceps and back injuries. If Hargrave can’t play against Jacksonville, L.T. Walton or Alualu could start at nose tackle.
“They all know what is expected of them,” Butler said. “When stuff like that happens, you hope for the best that they are ready and their coaches try to get them ready. We’ll see how it turns out in the game.”