PITTSBURGH — Aaron Smith did not practice Tuesday morning, and his return to the Pittsburgh Steelers lineup is still uncertain.
However, Smith had his helmet and jersey on and worked with the scout team a bit, but he did not know when he would be able to practice. Smith tore his right triceps muscle during the Steelers game with the Miami Dolphins Oct. 24.
“My head felt a little weird with the helmet on after two months or so, but it was all right,” Smith said. “I’m getting better, but I have no idea when I’ll be ready to practice.”
Smith appears to be a long shot for the Steelers opening playoff game Jan. 15 at 4:30 p.m. at Heinz Field. Even if he practices next week, it’s hard to believe that he’d be ready to play that weekend. The Steelers are scheduled to practice Sunday to get a jump on their opening matchup.
The Steelers could face either the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens or Kansas City Chiefs. The Colts play host to the Jets, and the Ravens are at Kansas City. If the Colts win, the Steelers get them. If the Jets win, they travel to New England, and the Steelers get the Ravens-Chiefs winner.
“He struggled with his helmet and even tying his shoes, but it was great to get Aaron back on the football field and running around a little bit,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “It was a step in the right direction.”
Keisel also missed a few midseason games with a hamstring injury, but the Steelers defensive line has continued to make plays thanks to nose tackle Casey Hampton and backups like veterans Nick Eason and Chris Hoke and second-year pro Ziggy Hood.
“It was great to see Aaron out there running around a little bit,” Hood said. “It’s only a matter of time before he’s back practicing with us. When you have that much love for the game, that makes you want to come back like he’s trying to do. You never want to walk away from the game wondering what would happen if I came back for one last game.
“Maybe that game would have been my best game. So, seeing that from him inspires me to work even harder. I don’t know if this is his last turn, but he loves the game and wants to come back and play. So, I think he’ll keep working hard to come back even stronger next season.”
Hood added that Smith has been his mentor since the Steelers drafted him in the first round in 2009, but it isn’t a dictatorial relationship.
“It works both ways,” Hood said. “Whenever I have something I need to address or figure something out, I go to him. Also, if he sees something that I need a little bit of work on or if he has an idea, he comes to me. It goes both ways.
“I can talk it over with him no matter what, and he’s helped me play much better. I’m not hesitating as much as I did last year or even earlier this season. I’m just reacting off the ball and playing much faster than I did before.”