PITTSBURGH (AP) — The suddenly struggling Pittsburgh Steelers gave their battered offensive line a fresh face by signing Danny Isidora off Kansas City’s practice squad on Tuesday.
Isidora joins a group in need of healthy bodies. Left guard Matt Feiler was placed on injured reserve on Monday with a pectoral injury. His replacement, rookie Kevin Dotson, is battling a shoulder injury and right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor tweaked his ankle in a loss to Buffalo on Sunday night.
Isidora, a fifth-round pick by Minnesota in 2017, has made six NFL starts for three teams. Playing time, however, was hard to come by in Kansas City. Isidora has played just two snaps this season.
The Steelers (11-2) are hurting following back-to-back losses to Washington and Buffalo, the latter a 26-15 setback in which Pittsburgh’s offensive and defensive lines were both dominated at times by the Bills.
”I thought in all elements of play, (Buffalo was) the more physical group,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. ”They’re a physical football team in general, so they are capable of that. For us, regardless of circumstance, we don’t want to make that common. The comment is true as it pertains to that matchup. We have to be accountable to that, and we are.”
How the Steelers can go about correcting that is tricky. Padded practices are rare this time of year during a normal season, much less in one impacted by COVID-19. Tomlin, however, did not rule out putting them on at least once this week.
Pittsburgh visits Cincinnati next Monday, meaning it has an extra day to prepare. There’s a chance the Steelers use that day to give both the offensive and defensive lines a chance to fix their issues by doing the kind of hitting that’s atypical for December.
This week provides the Steelers with some semblance of normalcy after a complicated stretch in which two games were moved because of COVID-19-related issues in Baltimore and a day of preparation for a third was eliminated because of the schedule shuffle.
Pittsburgh is optimistic cornerback Joe Haden will be able to return after sitting out the Buffalo loss because of a concussion. Tomlin chastised his secondary for getting pushed around by the Bills. Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs went off in the second half as the Bills pulled away.
”I thought for 30 minutes we did a really good job of keeping them and him, meaning (Buffalo quarterback Josh) Allen, off-balance,” Tomlin said. ”But we weren’t able to maintain it over the course of 60 minutes.”
Despite their recent struggles, the Steelers have already clinched their first playoff berth since 2017. A win over the Bengals would assure Pittsburgh of an AFC North title and at least one home playoff game at Heinz Field. Tomlin is intent on making sure his team’s dip is just that and not something that can send their season into a tailspin.
”We essentially laid an egg last week on primetime football,” Tomlin said. ”So we are excited about getting another opportunity at that.”