Cult hero: 'No. 72 has reported has an eligible receiver.'
Every time the referee announced those words on Monday night at Heinz Field, the cheers from the crowd grew louder and louder for No. 72, Zach Banner.
Banner, the mammoth tackle, has taken on that role this season, but on Monday the crowd took to him in a whole new way.
The tackle-eligible role is one the Steelers have been using for years now, past examples including Kelvin Beachum and Chris Hubbard. Banner is the latest in the role, and his journey to this point was one filled with determination and it hasn't gone unnoticed.
"He has done a nice job," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "It started first with his level of conditioning. This guy has done a really awesome job in the year or so that he has been here from an overall conditioning standpoint. That is the catalyst for all of this. Also, he is a detail guy and he is working, and taking advantage of an opportunity to get playing experience.
"But it's not unique. We've always done it with our young, swing tackle like guys. Guys like Kelvin Beachum occupied that role years ago. Guys like Chris Hubbard occupied it more recently. When you are a swing tackle for us, we try to get you game experience so when you have to go in the game it won't be your first experience. The means of doing that is a tight end that reports as eligible."
Tomlin did acknowledge he heard the reaction from the fans and had some fun with it.
"I hope he doesn't become a cult hero. He and we don't need that in our lives," joked Tomlin. "He has too much work ahead of him. He is not Beach or Mother Hubbard yet."
Ball security: With injuries mounting at running back, including James Conner (shoulder) and Benny Snell (knee) both banged up after Monday night's win over the Dolphins and Jaylen Samuels coming back from a scope on his knee, the Steelers may need to rely on their depth and that means second-year running back Trey Edmunds could be called into action more this week.
Tomlin likes what he has seen from Edmunds in the limited playing time he has had and has confidence in the young back who was signed off the practice squad a few weeks ago.
"First of all he is an above the line special teams performer," said Tomlin. "He is a running back that is capable of playing in coverage units. He is a football player first. When you see running backs or offensive players that excel in coverage units, that are productive tacklers like Rosie Nix, that adds value to your group. To be able to play offensive players in coverage units, he gives us that.
"He has a consistent run demeanor, he is tough, he is downhill. He finishes plays aggressively. All of those things we like. And he has really solid, consistent ball security."
Coming up roses: Before he was injured, James Conner rushed for 145 yards on 23 carries, the first time the Steelers had a 100-yard rusher this season.
It is no coincidence that performance went hand-in-hand with the return of fullback Roosevelt Nix, who has been sidelined with a foot injury since after Week 1 of the season.
"Rosie's presence is significant, not only in terms of what he is capable of doing, but the energy it brings to the other guys because they have worked with him in the past," said Tomlin. "He has that emotional bank account with guys when they see him, they know what it means."