Stevenson Sylvester Sidelined By A Pair Of Gunners

By Matthew Marczi

By now we all have seen Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Stevenson Sylvester’s injury during the preseason opener against the New York Giants. The fourth-year veteran had just come in to make a strong special teams tackle following a punt by Drew Butler. After the tackle, rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton, serving as the gunner on the left side, came screaming in on an angle, running perhaps a bit too fast considering that the tackle had already been made, and ultimately barreled right into Sylvester’s right leg.

Steelers Giants Stevenson Sylvester ankle injury animated gif

Sylvester’s leg bent awkwardly, although his planted foot caused his right ankle to take the brunt of the punishment after initially appearing to be a knee injury. He rolled onto his stomach and stayed down for a few seconds before quickly getting up and jogging off, though visibly grimacing and favoring his right side.

Seemingly unobserved was that the gunner on the other side, rookie safety Shamarko Thomas, also came screaming in on the play before Wheaton, and in fact ending up at Wheaton\’s feet. The receiver ended up tripping over Thomas as the latter attempted to get up.

Wheaton actually attempted to leap over his fallen teammate, as Sylvester had done, lifting both himself and Giants returner Jayron Hosley over Thomas while making the tackle. However, as Thomas was getting up, Wheaton ended up kneeing him in the back, himself tumbling forward over Hosley and into Sylvester’s leg.

It was an unfortunate incident all around with two rookies combining to inadvertently injure a teammate on a special teams play, but fortunately, the damage does not appear to be too serious, as Sylvester is expected to only miss two days of practice, resuming work on Thursday (Tuesday is an off day, much to head coach Mike Tomlin’s chagrin).

It is hoped that the ankle injury will have no long-term ramifications on Sylvester’s struggle to maintain a roster spot. The inside linebacker was the only one of the team’s restricted free agents not to be given a tender by the team earlier this offseason. He was later signed to a veteran-minimum contract after no other team took an interest in him.

Reports during camp thus far had been good for him, however. He had been running the second-team Mack linebacker position alongside second-year player Marshall McFadden. Linebackers coach Keith Butler recently spoke highly of him after earlier stressing the importance of this year for him, saying that he is likely the third inside linebacker as it stands right now.

In fact, in-game, Sylvester was scheduled to check in on defense following that punt alongside McFadden, though he was obviously not fit to resume play. In his place, sixth round rookie linebacker Vince Williams took some earlier than anticipated snaps and did not appear lost.

In practice on Monday, former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Brian Rolle was playing second-team with McFadden in Sylvester’s stead after a strong performance against the Giants on Saturday. He and the rest of the inside linebackers as a group played well, instantaneously intensifying the roster battle for a position that earlier in the offseason was seen as weak, with hopes being pinned to the possibility of second-year linebacker Sean Spence being able to recover from nerve damage suffered during the 2012 preseason finale.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Patrick

    Danny Smith has a lot to work
    on this week, his troops had an epic fail the other night. Sure hope Tomlin noticed and told him about it, that can’t happen again because it will lose games

  • joed32

    Pretty sure that was a topic of discussion between them.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I am sure a ” What is this?!” came from Tomlin.

  • steeltown

    Young guys being too aggressive, trying to impress… need to temper that

    These young ILB have really impressed, Rolle truly was surprising and looked like a Safety in coverage, very quick.. in the end what are they to do? I doubt they keep 5ILB, unless they only carry 4OLB this year..Rolle is not practice squad eligible and IMO I wouldn’t risk trying to stash Vince on the squad…

    Good problem to have I guess

  • WilliamSekinger

    There is no such thing as being too aggressive on STs (unless you are illegally blocking or hitting after the play is over). It was an unfortunate accident. Happens all the time. No need to ‘temper’ anything.

  • steeltown

    Yes, the above was an accident but fielding punts and kickoffs when you’re in the back of the endzone because you want to make a play and an impression is being too aggressive, same with blocking in the back and other penalities.. so overall the youngsters were too aggressive on special teams Saturday

  • Douglas Andrews

    Have to agree with you on that one. The young guys have to be aggressive and make plays if they want to secure a roster spot on the final 53. I’ll bet H Ward was never told to temper that aggressiveness on ST when he was a rookie. This is where the young guys make their mark. Wheaton’s problem is he never really played ST’s. He needs to learn to play to the whistle and not let up. I want overaggressive ST players as long as they aren’t making stupid penalties.

  • Richard Edlin

    If he had hit the returner’s knee as recklessly as did Sylvester it would have been a penalty. It was only “lucky” he didn’t … although the outcome for the Steelers is a lot worse than if he had done.

  • sean mcmartin

    It’s the first pre-season game. They don’t even game plan for it.
    need to get whoever can stay healthy ready to go for The First game..