Anyone who plays the position Craig Stevens does – tight end – has more than one responsibility. He is part blocker, part receiver, depending the situation, the defense and any number of other factors.
Stevens does even more than that for the Tennessee Titans. So it is news when, as was the case Wednesday, he does not participate in practice.
He sat out with a rib injury sustained in last Sunday’s victory at Cleveland.
“He is sore,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Ribs are just something with tolerating the pain. He didn’t do anything [Wednesday], he probably won’t do a whole lot [Thursday], and then hopefully by Friday he will feel like he can get out there and do some things.”
In addition to his role on offense – he has caught four passes for 73 yards and a touchdown this season – Stevens also is involved heavily on the Titans’ special teams. He has two tackles on those units and, as is the case with offense, also is a key blocker.
“I like the growth and development of their tight end group,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “Stevens of course and [Jared] Cook being younger guys, they are shaping into very good professionals and you see it showing up on tape and they are weapons.”
That’s why Munchak does not want to think of the offense without Stevens.
“He is such a big part of our offense and has been catching the ball the last few games, been going to him on some big catches, especially in a game like this where you need somebody that can handle [blocking] those outside linebackers in the run game,” Munchak said. “So it would definitely be a big loss to not have him for both ends, he helps with both but definitely the offensive side.
• Challenging environment: Since 1970, Pittsburgh has the league’s best home record at 228-88-1, which includes games at Three Rivers Stadium and its current home, Heinz Field.
Three of the Steelers’ first four games this season have been on the road. Their only home game was in Week 2 and was a victory – 24-0 over Seattle.
“I think they have sold out the last 300 games or something so that’s a tough place to go in and play no matter what their record is,” Munchak said. “They are 2-2 [overall] and this is still early in the season and we know we are going to have to play our best to win.”
The Titans are 1-3 all-time at Heinz Field, which includes a pair of 34-7 defeats.
• Fast start: With a team-high 23 receptions, Nate Washington is off to the best start of his career, which began with four seasons with the Steelers.
“It’s about opportunity for many people,” Tomlin said. “I don’t think anybody in our locker room or their locker room for that matter would be shocked by what he is doing.”
That includes his former quarterback, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.
“Nate was always an awesome wide receiver, one of my favorites around here,” Roethlisberger said. “I was sad to see him go but I’m glad he is blossoming somewhere.”