Injuries are just as much a part of the game of football as blocking and tackling. The Pittsburgh Steelers would be wise to remind themselves of that on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns as they drag their ailing defense into Ohio to battle a backup rookie quarterback.
While the Browns are without QB Deshaun Watson, Pittsburgh’s second and third levels are battered and bruised. Their top two inside linebackers are lost for the season. They are down two top safeties in this one, with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Keanu Neal sidelined. That leaves Damontae Kazee and first-year Trenton Thompson, fresh up from the practice squad.
“Trent is definitely gonna have his shot to play this week”, CB Patrick Peterson told reporters on Friday, via the team’s website. “I know he has a hat for sure. We’ll just have to see how the flow of the game goes. But he had a great week of preparation this week”.
Describing him as a physical player, Peterson called Thompson “a guy that has a knack for the football. He’s a guy that’ll come up and hit you. In tune with the defense. I’m excited to see him get his shot and go out there and play big for us”.
Elevated from the practice squad last week, he played seven snaps on defense late in the game after Neal’s injury following an interception. A former college free agent out of San Diego St. (where he was briefly teammates with Kazee), he played in one game, on special teams, for the New York Giants in 2022.
The Giants waived him in late July and the Steelers signed him on August 2 in the midst of training camp. While he flashed during the preseason, he is not about to compare what he did then to what he expects to face in a real game.
I wouldn’t compare the two settings at all”, he told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Preseason, I’m playing ballers, don’t get me wrong. But I’m playing people like myself trying to make a team. I’m not playing against the starters or the guys playing on real Sundays”.
He logged 77 defensive snaps in total during the preseason, registering seven tackles, holding up well overall in coverage, including an interception. He did have some issues with missed tackles and in his run defense, so they may have to rotate him in for passing situations and look for another answer on run downs.
The Steelers have two other safety-capable players already on the roster. Miles Killebrew is here primarily for special teams, but they occasionally play him in certain roles defensively. He has 16 defensive snaps so far this season.
There is also Elijah Riley, who has been with the team since last season and has played in spurts. They used him primarily as a slot defender this offseason, but is more of a safety with slot capability than a cornerback.