PITTSBURGH — Linebacker Jerod Mayo wasn't back on the field in his full-time role Sunday, but he made a step in the right direction after missing two games with a knee injury.
Mayo didn't start, but he played on the second and third defensive series during the Patriots' 25-17 loss to the Steelers. After that, he played sparingly before taking the field for the final defensive series.
"It is good to be back, just to be around the fellas, be around the coaches," Mayo said. "Too bad it was under these circumstances, but back to the drawing board."
Mayo was asked if he knew going into the game how much playing time he'd get.
"I don't know," he responded. "Whatever coach asks me to do, I'm willing to do. That's a tough question."
Mayo, who has been a captain for three consecutive seasons, took his traditional spot with quarterback Tom Brady in leading the pregame stretch. Even though Mayo wasn't as active during the game, tallying two tackles (one solo), it was clear that the coaching staff wanted to give him a gradual progression. It was also a sign that he wasn't going to get a lot of playing time when linebacker Brandon Spikes was given the responsibility of wearing the headset and relaying the defensive calls from the coaches.
Plus, Mayo returned to the field quicker than expected after he suffered a similar injury in 2009, and he wasn't the same player. His limited role Sunday could have been a conscious effort by the coaching staff to ensure the same thing doesn't happen again.
"I felt all right," Mayo said. "I went out there and ran around with the guys. My mental state of mind was at a peak today just being out there with the guys."