Pitt redshirt senior defensive end Greg Romeus will miss the rest of the season after tearing an ACL in his right knee during the Panthers' 30-28 loss to Connecticut last Thursday, head coach Dave Wannstedt announced at his weekly press conference on Monday.
"He sustained a knee injury; it was an ACL tear. He is going to get a second opinion on Tuesday, but all indications and what appears right now is that the year is over," Wannstedt said.
The Connecticut game was Romeus' second appearance of the season. He missed most of training camp due to a back injury and had surgery on his back after playing in the season opener at Utah. He returned to practice during the bye week prior to Thursday's game and was in the starting lineup against the Huskies.
Romeus played approximately 20 snaps in the first half of the Connecticut game and about six in the second half before suffering the injury.
"It was a non-contact injury rushing the passer," Wannstedt said. "He stopped, tried to come up under the guy, and twisted his knee. It was something that he has done a thousand times."
Romeus recorded three tackle assists in the Connecticut game. Against Utah, he had four tackle assists. Those will be the final stats of his collegiate career.
"The plan is that we'll get the doctor's recommendation, do what we have to do, and then he'll get ready for the NFL draft," Wannstedt said. "I think Greg's football reputation speaks for itself. [The injury is] not going to be an issue. They're just going to want to know that he is healthy, that he can go. He's got good tape and a history of [production]. Greg will be playing on Sunday's, I believe, for a long time."
In 2009, Romeus split Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors with fellow Pitt defensive lineman Mick Williams after recording 11.5 tackles for loss and a team-high eight sacks. His replacement in the current starting lineup, redshirt junior Brandon Lindsey, has made 13 tackles for loss and nine sacks so far this season.
But for players like redshirt senior left tackle Jason Pinkston, who is one of the team's captains, the long-term loss of Romeus goes beyond statistics.
"We're the three captains, but ultimately Greg is our leader," Pinkston said Monday. "He's one of our captains and one of my best friends. I was so excited to see him back in uniform and doing the things he can, because I know he can help us."
Romeus was arguably the gem of the recruiting class of 2006, Wannstedt's first full class as Pitt head coach. A raw, two-star defensive end with little experience playing football, Romeus impressed Wannstedt with his size and athleticism. Pitt offered Romeus a scholarship late in the process, but an official visit to Pittsburgh near the end of January landed a commitment.
In a way, Romeus has been the most recognizable on-field product of the Wannstedt Era at Pitt: an under-recruited prospect, one with raw athleticism, who was found by the recruiters and developed by the coaches into an all-conference player with professional aspirations.
"It's very, very painful for me to stand here and say that (Romeus will miss the rest of the season)," Wannstedt said. "There is nobody on our football team since I've been here that has done everything the right way on the field and off the field. He has always put this team first, and he has always been willing to do whatever was necessary to represent the University of Pittsburgh.
"It's a tough, tough deal."