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October 31, 2010Pitt's defense could be getting a big weapon back for the Panthers' four-game stretch run to finish the regular season, as redshirt senior defensive end Greg Romeus could be back for Pitt's next game.
That's the anticipation of senior defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who thinks Romeus could be on the field when the Panthers play at Connecticut on Thursday, November 11th.
"I'm excited for Greg to come back against UConn," Sheard said after Pitt beat Louisville at Heinz Field on Saturday. "I was talking to him and he said he feels pretty good. He's just got to take it day by day, with an injury and just coming back from surgery. You don't want to rush him back, especially with the future he has ahead of him."
Romeus has been on the sidelines virtually all season. He was hampered in training camp by a back injury but played in the season opener at Utah. He missed the following week's home game against New Hampshire, had surgery on his back the next week, and has not played since.
Romeus traveled with the team to Syracuse on October 16th, and there were some expectations that the reigning Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year could return for Saturday's game against Louisville, but he was only on the sidelines for the Panthers' 20-3 victory.
"I know he's excited to play," Sheard said. "He talked about it on the sidelines against Rutgers; he wanted to put on his pads and get out there and play and get a couple sacks. From watching us, I know he's excited.
"We talk about it a lot. That's my roommate, so he always talks about coming back. He can't wait to get back."
Romeus probably won't jump directly into the starting lineup upon his return, instead playing an increasing number of snaps as he gets his game legs back under him. And his replacement, redshirt junior Brandon Lindsey, has played well, recording eight sacks in seven games as a starter.
Overall, Romeus will rejoin a defense that has been surging. Pitt has allowed a total of four offensive touchdowns in the last three games, including a stout showing against Louisville on Saturday when the Panthers gave up just three points and 185 yards of total offense.
"We're doing good right now without him, and when he comes back we'll be even better," Sheard said. "We just have to wait around and see how he feels. Hopefully he'll get back in the next two weeks against UConn with the bye week."
Sheard has done his part in Romeus' absence. After recording two sacks and two forced fumbles against Louisville on Saturday, he has nine sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and 15 quarterback hurries this season. And he has accomplished that production while being the primary focus of opposing offenses' blocking efforts.
As such, Sheard has extra reason to look forward to Romeus' return.
"I can't wait for him to get back; hopefully he gets the double team and I get free on the other end," Sheard said with a laugh. "Greg's a great pass-rusher, a great defensive lineman. He's huge, and I can't wait for him to get back and get back to making plays the way that he does."
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